Archive for accident

Death of a Luger: Who Takes the Blame?

Posted in current events with tags , , , , on February 15, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

A great tragedy occured on 12 February 2010 in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada: Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, during a trail run on the luge track, lost control on the final turn and flew into an unpadded metal pole at close to 90 miles per hour.  (The Huffington Post story has the disturbing video of the crash.) He was 21 years old.

Human nature demands that someone be at fault for this accident. Nothing happens on its own; there is someone to blame. Nodar’s family is blaming the creators of the luge track, as the walls on the track were too low, which caused him to fly to his death. However, a probe into the track says that there was nothing structurally wrong with the track, and that the fault lies entirely on Nodar’s mistakes. It should be noted, however, that despite it being Nodar’s fault, they have built an addition on the wall at the accident site, making it higher, and preventing any more accidents like this.

But probably the most telling aspect of this whole debacle is a quote from Nodar’s father, David, who competed in the luge when Georgia was still part of the Soviet Union

I don’t know anything about why it happened, I don’t know if it was the track or if it was a mistake, but I know that he should never have been going that fast. That kind of speed is too much in this sport.

There are three different places to put the blame for this accident: the architects and engineers who built the track, Nodar Kumaritashvili, and the sports community’s focus on being “better, faster, stronger.” All of them viable options, but which one is it?

I’m almost inclined to believe that all of these options worked together to create this tragedy. Several reports say that Nodar was fearful about the track the day before his death, saying that he was “scared about one of the turns” on the track, but his bravery and his dream to be an Olympic athlete made him go for it. This is where the fault can be placed on the athlete: his worried were not unfounded, but he went against his instincts, and that caused him to lose his life.

Of course, if the wall were up to standards, he never would have flown off the track. Athletes were concerned about the track before the fatal accident, with an Australian luger being quoted as saying, “To what extent are we just little lemmings that they just throw down this track and we’re crash test dummies? I mean, this is our lives.” Structurally subpar, many athletes said that this accident was bound to happen if something weren’t changed. But the Olympic committee ignored the athletes’ concerns, and now we are one person short in an already small collection of the Georgian Olympic team.

But today’s age of athleticism is also to blame. Sports are constantly in need of being “exciting,” and the Olympic committee had boasted that the track was “faster, steeper and more intense than any track in history.” That’s all fine and dandy, but when will our need for speed become less of a priority than the safety of our athletes? There is always some sort of controversy in every sport about who is doing what to get the edge: baseball has steroids, figure skating had Tonya Harding hiring someone to break Nancy Kerrigan’s kneecaps. When will our primal competativeness be put to the wayside for us to make sure that everyone who competes will make it out alive?

I feel that everyone is to blame for this accident. Everyone who has ever worked on the track is to blame, every athlete who didn’t fight for a safer track is to blame, and our society’s bloodlust for competition is to blame. Sports are supposed to be entertaining and fun, and are never supposed to come to a screetching halt because of a preventable tragedy.

Nodar Kumaritashvili will be greatly missed, and I hope that his death will open the eyes to the rest of the world, and we can finally do something to protect the world’s greatest athletes.