WVU Volleyball's Blog

The Georgian Luger

Posted on: February 16, 2010

Nodar Kumaritashvili of Georgia practices at the Whistler Sliding Centre.

On opening day of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, the world was shocked to learn of the death of one of the Lugers was from the country of Georgia. Nodar Kumaritashvili was a fresh faced 21-year-old competeing in his first Olympics who was doing trial runs on that fateful Friday morning when he lost control of his luge and flew off the track at almost 90 miles per hour and slammed into a steel rod. He was attended by paramedics within seconds and air lifted to a hospital, but the damage was too much and he died at the hospital. Although this has been a sad and tragic accident, the events that have followed have been shameful and almost disgusting.

After the accident, Olympic and Luge Federation officials decided to blame Nodar Kumaritashvili instead of the $100 million dollar track. Officials claimed that Nodar Kumaritashvili was late coming out of the next to last turn and did not compensate for it which led to the accident and ultimately his death. The track had been under speculation for the past couple of months because many claimed it was too “technically demanding” and that only the home team, Canada, would have enough practice and experience on it. To help prevent any further accidents and to reduce speed, officials decided to move the start to where the women start, adjust the ice level, put a wall by turn 16 where Kumaritashvili died and also put pads around all of the steel rods. With all of these adjustments, it is safe to say that this track was harmful to the athletes and Kumaritashvili’s death could have been avoided if all of these preventative measures had been put in place beforehand. I think that the officials are completely out of line to blame a young athlete and I am not the only person who thinks so.

Mikheil Saakashvili, the President of the Republic of Georgia, said  “Well, with all due respect … one thing I know for sure, that no sports mistake is supposed to lead to a death.” Saakashvili is completely right. There was no reason to blame Kumaritashvili especially because he is not even alive to defend himself. The young man had run the track almost 15 times before he died and he told his dad he felt very unsafe on the track but like any athlete, was intent on competeing. The protective barriers needed to be there before any athletes started to test on it or practice. The officials were just trying to cover their bases and make sure that other athletes were still going to compete on the track. It is obvious that they were afraid that if the track was blamed, there would be no luge events. Even if this was the case, you should still never try to put blame on an athlete when there should be protective measures in place to keep them safe.

The latest person to put his two cents in about the luger is none other than David Letterman. The late night funny man decided to take a serious turn in his monologue and comment on how the Olympic officials were hypocrites for blaming Kumaritashvili.

“A ‘mistake’? …I just wonder if it had anything to do with those exposed steel girders… Don’t blame the kid, for god’s sake. He had said to his dad. ‘I think something’s a little haywire here; I’m a little bit frightened about the track’…For them to say that he made a mistake, that just stinks … they then repaired the track and covered up the girders and started [the race] from the women’s starting point? … You know what it is? It’s hypocrisy, ladies and gentlemen.”

You let them have it Dave.

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