Olympics Marred by Luger Death Before The Really Dangerous Sport Kicks Off, Snowboarding


Posted on 16th February 2010 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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Observers feared that daredevil snowboarders might wind up dead at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, pounding their skulls while attempting death-defying feats in the competition. But it was the luge sport that right out of the gate turned the games “into a gallows,” as one sportswriter out it.

And Olympic officials appeared more concerned about covering their asses than addressing the why of what happened.

This weekend there were many eloquent stories in the national press about the cowardice of the sports officials who blamed Nodar Kumaritashvili, the Georgian Luger killed at the Vancouver Olympics last week, for causing his own tragic death.

In its five-paragraph statement Friday, the International Luge Federation said that the Kumaritashvili came out of a curve and “did not compensate properly…there was no indication that the accident was caused by deficiencies in the track.”


There was no mention of the fact that the steel pillar that the 21-year-old luger slammed his back into at racetrack speeds wasn’t padded, or that Olympic lugers were terrified of the track.

The New York Times did a Page One story Sunday on that topic, headlined “Fast and Risky, Sledding Track Drew Red Flags.”


Also on Sunday, The Times blasted the luge federation for its findings in a story headlined “Quick to Blame in Luge, and Showing No Shame.”


“Olympic officials treated the death of Nodar Kumaritashvili, the Georgian luge athlete, less as a tragedy than as an inconvenience,”
The Times wrote.

Back injuries aren’t the only thing to anticipate with these luge races. Last week a Romanian, Violeta Stramaturaru was knocked unconscious on Thursday and taken to a hospital after slamming into a wall several times.


Here’s the best summation we read of the tragedy over the weekend, by New York Daily News sports columnist Filip Bondy.


“In the end, it wasn’t the halfpipe or the freestanding aerials that turned the Winter Olympic into a gallows,” he wrote Saturday. “It was as slippery-sloped luge track, designed by someone who didn’t know the sport and nurtured by a system that reward outrageous risk-taking.”

The New York Times Saturday said in a Page One story that the Georgian’s death “casts a pall” over the Winter games.


On the sports pages that same day, The Times noted that the Winter Olympics have “had ample adversity and controversy,” from too-little snow “and doping” scandals, “but genuine tragedy has been a rarity.

Prompted by last week’s death, Olympics officials have taken steps to make the luge track safer. For example, they have moved the men’s start line farther down the track.

We’ll see if that helps – and hold our breath for when the supposedly really dangerous competition starts: snowboarding.

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