Olympian killed in luge accident
February 12, 2010 1:04 PM   Subscribe

Olympian killed in luge accident Nodar Kumaritashvili of Georgia was killed when he wrecked on the luge course in Vancouver. This is the second crash today.
posted by greensweater (230 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Bunch of people complaining about the speed/safety of that course...


.
posted by inigo2 at 1:05 PM on February 12, 2010


They covered the luge/bobsled course on "Modern Marvels" last night, and one of the designers/builders was bragging that the last curve had been nicknamed the "50-50", as 50% of athletes had been crashing during training.

At the time, I found the joke to be a bit tasteless...
posted by muddgirl at 1:06 PM on February 12, 2010


Images of the run. [nsfw]
posted by R. Mutt at 1:08 PM on February 12, 2010


Those NY Post images are not for the sensitive.
posted by smackfu at 1:10 PM on February 12, 2010


Uggg. Those images are pretty graphic.
posted by bondcliff at 1:10 PM on February 12, 2010


"I think they are pushing it a little too much," Australia's Hannah Campbell-Pegg said Thursday night after she nearly lost control in training. "To what extent are we just little lemmings that they just throw down a track and we're crash-test dummies? I mean, this is our lives."
"Ah, they just called my name, time for another practice run," she added.
posted by Plutor at 1:12 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


How very sad.
posted by SLC Mom at 1:12 PM on February 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


These pictures from the link I clicked on to see a guy dying on the luge are graphic.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:13 PM on February 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


Sports/science mefites: would he have survived if the steel poles had been padded?
posted by fight or flight at 1:14 PM on February 12, 2010


Vancouver Sun on safety fears re. the course

Flyover video of the course
. (Which actually is more a video about HOW COOL WHISTER IS!!!! Rather than the actual luge course.)

And the stupid Vancouver Sun has a picture on the front page of it's web edition of a man three milliseconds away from death, so classy editorial choice there. I guess anything to drive the snuff film aficionado web traffic.
posted by Keith Talent at 1:15 PM on February 12, 2010


Christ, what kind of safety standards are set for these courses? If large portions of world-class competitors are failing even to COMPLETE the course in PRACTICE, that goes beyond "demanding" to "effing absurd."
posted by BigLankyBastard at 1:15 PM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


This brings back some horrible feelings and memories. I'm sadly reminded of the death of diver Sergei Chalibashvili during Universiade '83 in my hometown.

.

----
Related: other olympic deaths: Francisco Lázaro, Knud Enemark Jensen, and of course. Other athletes who 'died on the field'.

posted by mazola at 1:15 PM on February 12, 2010


Sad and unnecessary. I have no problem with making a track faster and more challenging, but maybe they could move the metal poles further out of the way and put up more safety netting?
posted by rocket88 at 1:16 PM on February 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Video. Not as graphic as the photos, but still... beware.
posted by smackfu at 1:18 PM on February 12, 2010


.
posted by desjardins at 1:25 PM on February 12, 2010


.

The Toronto Star has pictures of a smaller crash yesterday. The one of him getting up at the end looking dazed but not hurt is suddenly uncanny and heartbreaking. :(
posted by bewilderbeast at 1:27 PM on February 12, 2010


Nodar Kumaritashvili lost control of his sled, went over the track wall and struck an unpadded steel pole near the finish line at Whistler Sliding Center.

what.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:28 PM on February 12, 2010 [14 favorites]


The track is considered the world's fastest and several Olympians recently questioned its safety. More than a dozen athletes have crashed during Olympic training for luge, and some questioned whether athletes from smaller nations – like Georgia – had enough time to prepare for the daunting track.

That really sucks. I'd like the Olympics to be challenging, not death-defying.

And what do you do if/when you discover your track is simply too dangerous? What sort of modifications can be made to a track after it's "complete" to make it slower or safer? Or can that be done at all?
posted by stefanie at 1:29 PM on February 12, 2010


Holy shit, that's awful.

.
posted by JeffK at 1:30 PM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


This luger who died had already had some bad trial runs, and there is a note in the write-up that he was going significantly *slower* than the other riders...and yet he still died. Which, in my mind, means it could be even worse for the other riders if they miss that "50/50" turn.

I wonder if, yes, the poles had been padded, and if his helmet had not come off, he would have lived. Certainly more safety factors on the perimeter of the course wouldn't hurt anything, and the other riders could still get those fast times.

Really tragic, to see someone so young and fit and full of promise just disappear from the planet as a result of one crazy-ass mistake.
posted by misha at 1:31 PM on February 12, 2010


If there is no standard design for a luge run, what is the purpose then of making one so dangerous? Just so you can say you did?
posted by tommasz at 1:33 PM on February 12, 2010


After seeing those pictures, I am absolutely stunned that there isn't anything to stop people from hitting those poles. The track was completed in 2008, fer crissakes. There should have been enough time to identify this issue and correct it.
posted by [citation needed] at 1:35 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Crap, I forgot I was logged in as my sarcastic sockpuppet. What's the opposite of HAMBURGER?
posted by [citation needed] at 1:36 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


tommasz - breaking World Records. I don't know exactly what the cache is, but it's the #1 goal for the stadium and run designers.
posted by muddgirl at 1:36 PM on February 12, 2010


Tragic.
posted by Elmore at 1:40 PM on February 12, 2010


Nodar Kumaritashvili lost control of his sled, went over the track wall and struck an unpadded steel pole near the finish line at Whistler Sliding Center.

what.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:28 PM on February 12


In case you don't want to look at the pictures: Imagine a luge track that's under a very narrow pier or railroad trestle, with supports that are huge, steel, and right next to the track.
posted by stefanie at 1:41 PM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


I wonder if, yes, the poles had been padded, and if his helmet had not come off, he would have lived.

From the looks of the video/pictures, his helmet didn't come off -- his visor did. His head and back hit the pole -- worst possible impact. Who knows if padding would have helped enough, but taller freaking wall at the end of the turn, so at least they don't fly out of the track? Man, what a tragedy.
posted by Pantengliopoli at 1:43 PM on February 12, 2010


90 mph! Just a guess, but I seriously doubt padding the beams would have helped very much. My guess is they'll have to extend that wall.
posted by SAC at 1:43 PM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


I guess I'm not familiar enough with the specifics of how courses are built, but these metal poles seem awfully close to the action to not have any kind of material to deflect against something like this.

Not knowing any facts other than what the photos show make me feel that this was a preventable tragedy in addition to being a senseless one.

Either way, it's very sad that, at what was probably the highlight of his life, this would happen.

.
posted by quin at 1:44 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can't they just build the walls higher? It doesn't seem to make any sense that they couldn't build a luge run that was nearly-impossible to get thrown out of.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:47 PM on February 12, 2010


They should really just suck it up and have the games in Calgary/Banff again.

I mean, fuck.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:47 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Huh ... yeah, that could happen for sure.

As someone who used to design and race downhill skateboards (luge style) stuff like this is always in the back of your mind.

From looking at the still photos, it looked like he probably suffered a basal skull fracture, and no amount of padding or a better helmet would have helped that. Impacting his head like that essentially tried to take it off his neck like a pineapple off of a stalk. Guess we'll have to wait for the forensic report to know for sure.

And from watching the video, it looks like he got into that last corner way too hot and way to high, the ass end slid out, and then after that, Mr. Newton was driving the sled.

Oh well, that's the game.

If you find it's too dangerous for you, play bridge.
posted by Relay at 1:48 PM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


.
posted by spinifex23 at 1:49 PM on February 12, 2010


This is what I love about Luge. It is essentially a Flexible Flyer sled going frakkin 90 MPH! Heck yeah it is dangerous. What's the problem? People get killed in all sorts of speed sports. NASCAR, Skiiing, baseball... Sure I feel for the guy, but dude it's a frakkin flexible flyer going 90MPH!
posted by Gungho at 1:49 PM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Holy crap... from mazola's link about Sergei Chalibashvili:
The athlete had had trouble in executing the difficult dive in practice. Anticipating tragedy, other divers along with U.S. Coach Bob Rydze could not watch his competition effort. Said Rydze in anger after the July 10 accident: "It's the coach's responsibility to make sure his divers are not attempting dives they're not capable of doing."
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:53 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can't they just build the walls higher? It doesn't seem to make any sense that they couldn't build a luge run that was nearly-impossible to get thrown out of.

It's probably harder to get good camera angles of the going into the curves if the walls are higher.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:54 PM on February 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


It won't take too many such crashes happening on live, world-wide television before they either modify the track or call off competition altogether.
posted by hippybear at 1:57 PM on February 12, 2010


Oh well, that's the game.

Yeah... Sorry to spoil your fun, but negligent homicide is not a game. It's pretty clear the designers are not only aware their track is dangerous, but are actually bragging about it. Expect criminal charges to be filed.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:58 PM on February 12, 2010 [24 favorites]


I added one NSFW link, could people be clear if they're linking to graphic images please?
posted by jessamyn at 1:59 PM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't understand how everyone doesn't die attempting a luge. That a medal isn't awarded to just anyone who survives. What an insane little sport.
posted by xmutex at 2:02 PM on February 12, 2010


I added one NSFW link, could people be clear if they're linking to graphic images please?

He linked to a series of photos of a luge run where it's clear someone dies. I dunno why a NSFW would be needed as well?
posted by xmutex at 2:05 PM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's probably harder to get good camera angles of the going into the curves if the walls are higher.

They could use a transparent material (see, e.g., Hockey).

Luge, and several other Olympic sports, are undeniably and unavoidably death-defying. This is a real tragedy. But it is part of the clear risk of the sport.
posted by The World Famous at 2:05 PM on February 12, 2010


I don't understand how everyone doesn't die attempting a luge. That a medal isn't awarded to just anyone who survives. What an insane little sport.

You're confused, you're thinking of skeleton. It's like luge except you go head-first and have no steering or brakes.
posted by mazola at 2:06 PM on February 12, 2010


I dunno why a NSFW would be needed as well?

We add the indicator when it seems obvious that people were/have been surprised by the graphic content of what was behind a link.
posted by jessamyn at 2:10 PM on February 12, 2010


Ridiculous design. It's one thing to make a difficult course. It's another thing to make a difficult course without the most basic of safety precautions. It would have been trivial, both in cost and time, to have those poles encased in that thick, foamy, padded material that covers the bottom of NFL goalposts.

And those goalposts are only hit by guys running at foot speeds, while wearing massive amounts of protective gear.

Ridiculous. Whoever is in charge of designing that track should be ashamed.
posted by Justinian at 2:11 PM on February 12, 2010


International Luge Federation OK'd this track.

The athletes practicing luge in Georgia, don't have a track this difficult to 'practice' on....how can the ILF consider their track safe then?

May they be sued to Hell and back. These Olympics are becoming more distasteful for me by the second. All about the money and big corp.

Athletes, back of the corporate bus.

I saw the clip just before the IOC [International Olympic Committee] pulled it 'for violating rights'.

I have no idea why they didn't place more safety [High Density rubber?] features, especially since Olympians were complaining about the track.

I feel violated by the IOC.

May all events on this track be cancelled before more deaths occur - the possibility is too high.




peace, Nodar Kumaritashvili

the adults you put your trust in, failed you.





"no amount of padding or a better helmet would have helped that"
"Oh well, that's the game.

If you find it's too dangerous for you, play bridge.
posted by Relay"



It's attitudes that Relay expresses that bother me to no end. The Roman events are a thing of the past I assumed.
You don't know if HD rubber padding his landing would have saved him. Witnesses stated it was the impact on the unpadded poles that caused his death - the sound he made striking them is etched in their memory.

Grief councillors are tending to the witnesses.
posted by alicesshoe at 2:11 PM on February 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


It is essentially a Flexible Flyer sled going frakkin 90 MPH! Heck yeah it is dangerous. What's the problem? People get killed in all sorts of speed sports. NASCAR, Skiiing, baseball... Sure I feel for the guy, but dude it's a frakkin flexible flyer going 90MPH!

If you have ever been luging "freaking awesome" is probably about the right description (as a rookie you start lower down the course so you never get to 90mph). And yes, people die in speed sports. The doesn't mean you can't provide some safety features, like say a little bit higher wall so he doesn't leave the course. Make it a clear wall if you want. It would still be just as awesome, just safer.
posted by caddis at 2:14 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do they give out honourary gold medals?
posted by chugg at 2:16 PM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is there a reason that this sport can't be played inside an enclosed tube, like some sort of water park slide?
posted by orme at 2:16 PM on February 12, 2010


More risk, more viewers, more $€£, more risk. Not that far from gladiators as far as I'm concerned.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:19 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


More risk, more viewers, more $€£, more risk. Not that far from gladiators as far as I'm concerned.

Except for the part where killing the opponent is the object of the game.
posted by The World Famous at 2:21 PM on February 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Do they give out honourary gold medals?

I hope not. I don't think that is a very good idea. A far better memorial would be designing the tracks with sufficient safety features to minimize the chances of this happening again.
posted by Justinian at 2:21 PM on February 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


BAD COURSE DESIGN.

If motorcycle racers can go down at speeds in excess of 150 mph and generally walk away due to personal safety gear (helmet + leathers) and courses that do not feature sudden hard stops anywhere (ie: gravel traps, deeply padded safety barriers etc) then surely the same can be done on luge/bobsled run.

It will be interesting to watch the various responsible parties (course designers, Olympic officials etc) cover their asses on this one.




.
posted by philip-random at 2:22 PM on February 12, 2010 [8 favorites]


This is terrible. Having looked at the video, I can't believe how quickly it happened. It seems seriously unlikely that padding would have made a difference. I imagine that buidling any luge track so that people cannot be thrown from it would involve cutting off the camera angles that are the sport's raison-d'etre, though that's not to say that the track has not been made too fast.

However, and it's a big however, many Olympic athletes compete in potentially deadly sports, especially at the winter Olympics. Going downhill at the limit of what the human body can control is inherently dangerous. Anyone who judges that the risk of this course is too high is free to withdraw from the games. Do not expect criminal charges to be filed. Do not treat every tragic death as someone's fault.

I added one NSFW link, could people be clear if they're linking to graphic images please?

I have to say, I'm not sure why people think that the images are particularly graphic. You see blood on his face. A bit disturbing, since you know he is dead or dying, but graphic? Not in my opinion.
posted by Dasein at 2:23 PM on February 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Damnation.


.
posted by jquinby at 2:24 PM on February 12, 2010


Something tells me there will be padding on those supports tomorrow. Shitty way to have to demonstrate the necessity of adequate safety precautions, though.
posted by briank at 2:25 PM on February 12, 2010


Oh well, that's the game.

If you find it's too dangerous for you, play bridge.


This accident was preventable on a number of fronts and the notion that you should just sit back and accept this guy's tragic death because of the danger inherent in the sport is anargument against progress. The sport can be dangerous but it does not have to be deadly.
posted by MegoSteve at 2:25 PM on February 12, 2010 [9 favorites]


.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:26 PM on February 12, 2010


I always expect awful things like this to happen in the X-Games, not in the Olympics. It's like there isn't a line between them anymore. That said, the guy was (I think) 44th in the world and not expected to medal. With two previously bad runs, you'd think under these circumstances his coaches or the staff on hand would say, "We're sorry, but this isn't in anyone's best interest anymore."
posted by june made him a gemini at 2:30 PM on February 12, 2010


I ride motorcycles and I'm always incredibly nervous around armco barriers (sfw), because of the posts holding it. A motorcyclist slides underneath and the posts just chop him up. The side of that course looks like a massive armco barrier.

I watched the video and I simply cannot believe that the course was approved as safe. To read that the designers called the corner 50/50 and yet did not account for athletes flying into the supports is shocking and infuriating.
posted by letitrain at 2:31 PM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Lugers are insane. They start out on street, where there are no safety guidelines at all. This track is unbelievably safe compared to that.

There is one way to make this sport safe: Ban it. Those calling for a "safer track" might as well be calling for a luge ban. The guy died doing what he loved, just like NASCAR drivers and motorcycle racers (ask one of those guys *privately* sometime how they feel about the safety measures they have to endure, and what measures they take when the cameras are off and they aren't being forced.)

These people WANT to do something dangerous -- let them.
posted by coolguymichael at 2:35 PM on February 12, 2010


ask one of those guys *privately* sometime how they feel about the safety measures they have to endure

Bull. Shit. Drivers and riders are always looking for ways to make their sport safer. There are enough inherent risks without adding bad course design.
posted by letitrain at 2:38 PM on February 12, 2010


The guy died doing what he loved

What, laying in excruciating agony on the cold concrete, his skull crushed by a steel beam?
posted by MegoSteve at 2:41 PM on February 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


That said, the guy was (I think) 44th in the world and not expected to medal. With two previously bad runs, you'd think under these circumstances his coaches or the staff on hand would say, "We're sorry, but this isn't in anyone's best interest anymore."

So we should only allow only the 3-5 expected to medal to the Olympics? Really?

Man, we could have the Olympics over in a weekend under your method. We could do the opening ceremonies in a hotel ballroom, do the figure staking Friday and Saturday, all the skiing on Saturday, curling Sunday morning, two hockey games apiece Friday and Saturday night, all the speed skating on Sunday, and we'd still have enough time for a quick run back to the hotel for the closing ceremonies before hopping on the airport shuttle.

Of course, it'd still cost $1B to host the Olympics for 80% fewer days, but hey, no more Georgian lugers for whom it's "not in anyone's best interest" to even show up!
posted by dw at 2:44 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lugers are insane. They start out on street

I'm pretty sure that is not true at all.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:44 PM on February 12, 2010


What, laying in excruciating agony on the cold concrete, his skull crushed by a steel beam?

If there's any solace, he was hopefully unconscious immediately after collision and didn't suffer much.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:46 PM on February 12, 2010


May they be sued to Hell and back.

Okay, one more time people: THE ATHLETES CONSENTED TO THE RISK. They knew the design, and if they've been complaining about the speeds, they knew them too. Maybe this is bad track design - I don't know. Probably we'll never see another design like it, and maybe that's for the best. I'm not saying that only lucky athletes should survive an Olympics. But I find this call to sue the shit out of someone anytime an accident happens - and an accident in the most extreme of extreme sports, nonetheless! - really off-putting. Maybe this athlete was competing beyond his skill level. Maybe not. But he chose to compete on this track, and he knew the risks. He should be celebrated as a great risk-taker and athlete, not as another reason to confirm our pre-existing biases about the Olympics being All about the money and big corp.
posted by Dasein at 2:52 PM on February 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


Utterly tragic. Shut down that course. No one should have to die for sport.
posted by d1rge at 2:55 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Other fatalities at previous Winter Olympics.
posted by mazola at 2:57 PM on February 12, 2010


1/4" Plexiglass: It's clear, strong, cheap, and prevents you from ramming into a steel pole. The "but the cameras!" argument is worthless in the face of the existence of bulletproof glass and other modern inventions which are both strong and transparent.
posted by 0xFCAF at 2:58 PM on February 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


The Canadian Luge and Skeleton team -- who have been practicing on this track for far longer than anyone else -- has been complaining about the danger of this track for years. CBC radio had an interview with Mellisa Hollingsworth, who is the current women's skeleton champion; she claimed that she was terrified of the track.

Seriously, when the best women's slider on earth says "this thing isn't safe", you might want to listen? Own the podium, indeed.
posted by jrochest at 2:59 PM on February 12, 2010 [18 favorites]


as 50% of athletes had been crashing during training. They only realized that during training? Were they not consulting with luge pros? I'm sure any serious rider would have been able to point out this error in design early on.

Relay, this kind of luge doesn't equate very well with the skateboard kind, unless you guys have started designing and building courses that are purpose specific.

Consider too that this contest isn't about being a daredevil, it's about speed. The course doesn't need to be any kind of crazy for a good competition of skill.

Yea, I know, world records sell tickets and air time, but that doesn't require death defying stunts.

.

Nodar, you made it to the Olympics. Good show!
posted by snsranch at 2:59 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


A motorcyclist slides underneath and the posts just chop him up.

If he falls on top, it cuts him in half.

The guy died doing what he loved, just like NASCAR drivers and motorcycle racers (ask one of those guys *privately* sometime how they feel about the safety measures they have to endure, and what measures they take when the cameras are off and they aren't being forced.)

Someone very close to me is a professional motorcycle racer. He feels great about the safety measures that he has to endure, because they have saved his life. Wrecking a bike at 200 mph and surviving will go a long way toward selling you on the idea of safety measures.

Ask Dale Earnhardt Jr. how he feels about the HANS device. And the corners in NASCAR should not be up against a wall. Period. There is no good reason for having a wall around the corners of a NASCAR track. Ask Rubens Barrichello privately whether he is happy about the safety measures that have been implemented in Formula 1 since the race weekend when he almost died and when Senna and Ratzenberger did die. Ask Robert Kubica privately how he feels about the safety measures that he "had to endure" during this crash.
posted by The World Famous at 2:59 PM on February 12, 2010 [12 favorites]


If motorcycle racers can go down at speeds in excess of 150 mph and generally walk away due to personal safety gear (helmet + leathers) and courses that do not feature sudden hard stops anywhere (ie: gravel traps, deeply padded safety barriers etc) then surely the same can be done on luge/bobsled run.

I was thinking the same thing. I have basically no knowledge of wintersports whatsoever, but what exactly are the posts supporting? A roof? Why does a sliding course need a roof? Why not just have a wide run-off area where, if the competitors crash, they just slide to a stop?
posted by afx237vi at 3:00 PM on February 12, 2010


"The Roman events are a thing of the past I assumed."

They are. No one forced any of the competitors to do this alicesshoe.

And as far as spectators being freaked out or traumatized, then they probably shouldn't have been spectating.

"The sport can be dangerous but it does not have to be deadly."

Why's that MegoSteve?

I don't see anything wrong with a sport being deadly. As a matter of fact, I think that's one of the things that makes a sport a sport. Sometimes, when your life is on the line, it becomes a totally different proposition.

It's a quote wrongly attributed to Hemingway (it was actually a sports writer from San Francisco in the 30s), but it still has relevance:

"Only car racing, bull fighting and mountain climbing are real sports. Everything else is a child's game played by adults wearing costumes."

That what makes something like car racing, or in this specific instance, luge racing, a sport, and something like baseball or football just a game.

You screw up in baseball by a millimeter or two, then you get another swing. You screw up in football, what, a big lands on you hard? You break a bone or two? Wow, hell of a price to pay.

You screw up in car racing, or luge racing by a millimeter or two, then it's a tasteful funeral hopefully.

If you don't like stuff like that, then don't compete in it. If you don't like watching stuff like that, then don't watch it.

No one forced Nodar Kumaritashvili to do this.

He knew the risks, and he rolled the dice and he lost and he paid the price.

Those are the parameters of the game, and he knew it going in, and so did all of the other competitors.

Most of those competitors have made it down the course in one piece.

So one corner near the end can be a little tricky and if you screw up there, there will be hell to pay.

So what?

That's not all that different from Eau Rouge in Belgium or the Sisteron Pass in the Monte Carlo Rally.

From what I could see in the videos and in the stills, Nodar Kumaritashvili screw up and got the corner wrong. That's a bad place to do that.

Other competitors should refrain from screwing up there.

If they can't then they should slow down.

Like the great John Surtees said, "The twist grip goes both ways."
posted by Relay at 3:00 PM on February 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


There was some mention that he had done this run more slowly because of difficulties with a previous run. Does anyone know if warmer weather or humidity changes affected the ice condition before he went down the track?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:01 PM on February 12, 2010


You screw up in baseball by a millimeter or two, then you get another swing. You screw up in football, what, a big lands on you hard? You break a bone or two? Wow, hell of a price to pay.

Try getting hit in the head by a Major Leage Baseball fastball, or getting paralyzed in an NFL game. The stakes are high in both sports - particularly football, where many players retire with permanent traumatic brain injuries.
posted by The World Famous at 3:04 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wonder if they'll postpone (or even cancel) the actual luge. I bet it's nearly impossible with TV deals.
posted by graventy at 3:05 PM on February 12, 2010


Some talk here on the Vancouver local radio about the fact that non-Canadian athletes in all competitions are being restricted from practicing on the Olympic courses. Canadian Olympic officials are cultivating a "home course advantage" by limiting competitors experience on these tracks. It's happening in the sliding and the skiing sports.

Not only is it poor gamesmanship - something we would be quick to condemn if our more well-known neighbour were to do that - but it's not like we stand a huge chance of converting that advantage. But to top it off, as if the course isn't dangerous enough, a "financial education company" has put up a $1 million stake for a Canadian gold medal in luge. On a track that kills inexperienced competitors.

Hoping that we can ratchet down the pressure here. One death is too many.

.
posted by salishsea at 3:11 PM on February 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


Not that I know one thing about luge, but it seems to me that to put steel bars like that on a dangerous turn is asking for trouble.
posted by humpy at 3:12 PM on February 12, 2010


"Only car racing, bull fighting and mountain climbing are real sports. Everything else is a child's game played by adults wearing costumes."

Has Appeal to Masculine Posturing been broadly accepted as a logical fallacy yet?
posted by invitapriore at 3:13 PM on February 12, 2010 [36 favorites]


I'm sure glad Relay isn't my Dad! Whew.
posted by JBennett at 3:17 PM on February 12, 2010 [15 favorites]


Oh no.
posted by emeiji at 3:18 PM on February 12, 2010


I guess the important thing to remember is that he died trying to prove to the whole world which arbitrarily created political devision thereof can ride a sled down a frozen ice cliff the fastest.
posted by applemeat at 3:20 PM on February 12, 2010 [12 favorites]


I'd like to ask a question.

Could someone tell me why.

People write very short sentences.

Separated by line breaks, in the manner I've just demonstrated?

I don't understand it.

But maybe there's a reason.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 3:21 PM on February 12, 2010 [18 favorites]


(ask one of those guys *privately* sometime how they feel about the safety measures they have to endure, and what measures they take when the cameras are off and they aren't being forced.)

It depends on the safety measure, though. NASCAR drivers may fume about restrictor plates, but every one of them buckles up and wears a fire suit.

There's a certain level of machismo with not wanting to use safety equipment, but every few years we have some incident that's cold water to the bravado -- Senna, Earnhardt, etc.
posted by dw at 3:22 PM on February 12, 2010


Relay:He knew the risks, and he rolled the dice and he lost and he paid the price

The problem is that it's a two-way street. Athletes take on these risks voluntarily with the expectation that others involved are going to hold up their end of bargain. Baseball players voluntary agree to have a baseball whipped at their heads, but they don't voluntarily agree to have another player swing a bat at them.

Whether designing an extremely agressive course constitutes race organizers not holding up their end of the bargain is hard to say. I agree that the dividing line here is between a dangerous sport and an extra-dangerous one, but it's not the case that the consent of the athelete is enough to absolve others of responsibility.
posted by Adam_S at 3:30 PM on February 12, 2010


And I should note that the complaints about restrictor plates ARE about safety -- that in keeping cars from running wide open on superspeedways NASCAR is trading the high speed crash for large packs of cars running at top possible speed that create huge pileups the moment someone gets loose or goes sideways from a bump.
posted by dw at 3:30 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


There won't be lawsuits or anything. But there may be diplomatic consequences. Merely the discussion of "were Olympic athletes killed by Canada's training bias" would be enormously damaging to Canada's generally good brand.

One death can be a freak accident. Oh holy hell, if there's a second...
posted by effugas at 3:30 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let's look at auto racing for a moment. Once upon a time, the technology was the limiting factor, and the drivers were more or less able to handle the cars well beyond the limits of the car. As technology improved, the distance between the upper limits of the cars and the upper limits of the drivers got narrower, and narrower, not because the drivers were somehow less capable but because the mechanical, aerodynamic, tire and track technology was improving.

This process continued until a few significant instances (F1 and NASCAR are the most well-known) wherein people were killed after the drivers had begun to complain that speeds were too fast and/or safety measures were too weak. From that point forward, safety measures were taken much more seriously to supplement the narrow (or completely absent) gap of capabilities, or the speeds and technologies were limited to maintain that gap, or both.

Now the gap at the highest levels of the sport tends to be between the driver's capabilities and the safety equipment; that is, safety seeks to make sure that the kinds of crashes caused when the cars fail or exceed the driver's capabilities are survivable. This is how Formula One cars can keep getting faster, and NASCAR races can keep being run with restrictor plates (that bunch up the cars and inadvertently increase the number of crashes), while deaths overall are reduced (including spectator deaths, a big motivator for track safety equipment after a terrible incident in late 60s F1.)

There is no reason whatsoever why additional safety equipment shouldn't be applied to this sport as well, in the form of better track design, including measures to reduce the likelihood of the sled leaving the track and better helmet design. Of course, as in auto racing, athletes will take more risks with the safety equipment present, but there's a finite limit to the fear that a given human being can push through even with safety gear, and arguably the safety equipment bar can be set higher.

I think there are two key differences between auto racing and this sport, however, that are worth noting: first, there is a lot less in the form of safety engineering budget in a sport like this than in auto racing, and second, the athletes in this sport have a very short career span and so a much higher risk tolerance compared to that found in auto racing, where the races happen week after week for years and years and so boycotting a race or two for safety reasons won't destroy their careers.

And finally:

.
posted by davejay at 3:32 PM on February 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


One death can be a freak accident. Oh holy hell, if there's a second...

Is that really where we draw the line?

There have been multiple accidents during training. While this particular accident ended in a fatality and thus received lots of coverage, why did no one else say, "y'know, we've had several accidents so far - perhaps we should take a look at the track?"

Or, perhaps, allow more than 40 training runs for foreign athletes (while keeping 300+ runs for their own athletes?) Combine the tragedy of this accident this with Canada's "Own The Podium" strategy, and you have to honestly ask:

Did Canada compromise the safety and health of foreign athletes in attempting to give their own athletes a competitive advantage?
posted by FormlessOne at 3:36 PM on February 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


Could someone tell me why.

People write very short sentences.

Separated by line breaks, in the manner I've just demonstrated?

I don't understand it.

But maybe there's a reason.


That's just how relay is.

He uses short sentences.

Here's a film clip of him speaking.

posted by dw at 3:40 PM on February 12, 2010


Nodar Kumaritashvili was there to represent his country.

Poor track design has taken away that opportunity, but to the Georgians, he is still a hero.

.
posted by bwg at 3:50 PM on February 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


This photo = EMS FAIL

Are there no latex gloves in Canada? One of the basic tenets of modern EMS is to always take body substance isolation precautions. And here were have a scene at the Olympics, in a civilized country, and the medic has bare hands and there's a lot of blood.

Not that gloves would have saved this poor guy but it makes me worry about the standard of care when you see medics being so lax on something so basic.
posted by grounded at 3:52 PM on February 12, 2010


"No one forced Nodar Kumaritashvili to do this."

No one forced the course designers to willfully design a turn that they figure only 50% of the competitors will be able to navigate, either. For that matter, no one forced the Canadian Olympic Committee to restrict foreign competitors (in a sport already notorious for its high risk of fatal injury) from using the track for the better part of two years. There's a world of difference between personal responsibility/acceptance of risk and willful negligence. When the top atheletes in the sport who WERE allowed to practice on it since the course opened says it's too dangerous, you know what? IT'S TOO DANGEROUS!

For someone who designed similar courses for skateboards to be so cavalier about the safety of competitors strikes me as irresponsible at best and morally reprehensible at worst. Shame on you, Relay.

.
posted by KingEdRa at 4:00 PM on February 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


it's a quote wrongly attributed to Hemingway (it was actually a sports writer from San Francisco in the 30s), but it still has relevance:

"Only car racing, bull fighting and mountain climbing are real sports. Everything else is a child's game played by adults wearing costumes."


Well good then, I can continue to have respect for Hemingway.
posted by mannequito at 4:00 PM on February 12, 2010


Well good then, I can continue to have respect for Hemingway.

Indeed. Because heaven knows that there are no equally stupid quotes that are correctly attributed to Hemingway. The man would never have uttered or written a phrase that merits anything other than total respect.
posted by The World Famous at 4:07 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


.
posted by Abbril at 4:08 PM on February 12, 2010


.
posted by killy willy at 4:15 PM on February 12, 2010


Frankly, no amount of padding on that steel pole would have prevented his death. Impacting that pole, at the angle that his head/body did, at excess of (likely at that point 75+ mph), he likely suffered a nice and quick internal decapitation with dislocation of his skull base from C1 and transection of the cord/medulla.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 4:21 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


For that matter, no one forced the Canadian Olympic Committee to restrict foreign competitors (in a sport already notorious for its high risk of fatal injury) from using the track for the better part of two years.

I think this is important to remember. Canada tried to play home-field advantage. Someone lost their life -- in part because of that decision by Canada?
posted by inigo2 at 4:26 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the camera obstruction issue is a nonstarter. All of these ice track sports make for terrible television anyway. Completely disorienting to watch. Tube in the tracks and give them all helmet cams.
posted by Trochanter at 4:30 PM on February 12, 2010


maybe they could move the metal poles further out of the way and put up more safety netting?

It's easy to be clever in hindsight, but couldn't they have designed a suspended roof - hanging from wires attached to A-frame supports, with the bases of the supports a hell of a lot further from the track?
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:33 PM on February 12, 2010


Poor track design has taken away that opportunity, but to the Georgians, he is still a hero.

With all due respect, this athlete is not a hero. He is the victim of an unfortunate tragedy and we should all be sad for his family and for the country he was representing at the Olympics. There is a common and unnecessary habit to respond to tragedy by calling its victims heroes, but it debases the word and is, frankly, unfair to the dead.
posted by mpbx at 4:49 PM on February 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


Isn't that a particularly strange direction to come off the course though? It's on the left side after a right turn, but not right away. I would think the typical failure point there would be going off either at the turn, or on the right side of the track after turning too far in the corner.

Given that, I know as much about luge as any of the other commenters here, so who knows.
posted by smackfu at 4:50 PM on February 12, 2010



(ask one of those guys *privately* sometime how they feel about the safety measures they have to endure, and what measures they take when the cameras are off and they aren't being forced.)


not that it's a speed sport - but it's been brought up here for its danger level -

cody lambert, after viewing the death of his friend, lane frost, created the safety vest that is worn by most professional bull riders (and now a safety vest of some sort is required).

time and time again you'll find that the calls for safety come from inside a given sport, not pressure from outside.
posted by nadawi at 5:02 PM on February 12, 2010


It occurs to me that there's likely a middle ground here somewhere here between "ZOMG SUE THE BASTARDS AND SHUT IT DOWN" and "SERVES HIM RIGHT, THE NO TALENT FOOL". ^^that right there's hyperbole, in case ya missed it folks

not to mention posting the images and vid strikes me as... not very classy, anyhow. OK sure they're available on the public domain and all, but those posts just kinda felt to me like pure rubbernecking for the shock value.

This whole post makes me sad, but I say this in all fairness to the departed, and moreover, as someone who's had a fellow competitor die in a bike race RIGHT FUCKING BEHIND ME when she missed a curve on a steep descent and augered into the guardrail face first. (brr... just thinking about it now gives me the shivers and it was damn near ten years ago now)

I do have to say, for the benefit of those of you who aren't involved in risky sports, that by and large, those of us who do, accept that yes, we could very conceivably die doing them. Hell in my sport we have to sign a release waiver that says just that, in no uncertain terms. And by and large, we've made our peace with that, and our loved ones (typically) understand that about us.

THAT SAID, Stupid Course Design is, you know, Stupid, and if rumours are true about the whole homefield advantage boondoggle, well then that's criminally insane.

.
posted by lonefrontranger at 5:16 PM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's a tragic freak accident, but the hysterical overreaction from people who clearly don't know the first god damn thing about the sport is what's really depressing, as predictable as it is.
posted by i_have_a_computer at 5:19 PM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Poor track design has taken away that opportunity, but to the Georgians, he is still a hero.

I'm not trying to be a dick, but why is somebody who died accidentally a hero?
posted by xmutex at 5:21 PM on February 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


here's an article talking about the non-canadian practice limiting from 2009.
posted by nadawi at 5:28 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


You all know he can still compete in this event?

I've said it here before. Too many silly "who can get to the bottom of a hill first?" events that even a dead person could do.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:30 PM on February 12, 2010


And the stupid Vancouver Sun has a picture on the front page of it's web edition of a man three milliseconds away from death, so classy editorial choice there.

That kind of thing is par for the course for The Sun.
posted by orange swan at 5:35 PM on February 12, 2010


from people who clearly don't know the first god damn thing about the sport is what's really depressing, as predictable as it is.
posted by i_have_a_computer at 8:19 PM

I've said it here before. Too many silly "who can get to the bottom of a hill first?" events that even a dead person could do.
-- posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:30 PM


Impressive.
posted by inigo2 at 5:36 PM on February 12, 2010


I just started watching the Opening Ceremonies and they showed the video of his crash.

I'm watching with my young kids here! I don't think it was at all appropriate to show that. Have some class TV people! It's one thing to go looking for it on the internet, totally different to have it thrust upon you when you just want to show your kids the Walk of Nations!
posted by TooFewShoes at 5:44 PM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Right after they were talking about this, there was a commercial from a local furniture company that had cartoon versions of the owners fly off a track and onto a mattress. You'd think they would have enough time to have the ad pulled - accidental tastelessness is still tasteless.
posted by Ruki at 5:52 PM on February 12, 2010


After seeing those pictures, I am absolutely stunned that there isn't anything to stop people from hitting those poles. The track was completed in 2008, fer crissakes. There should have been enough time to identify this issue and correct it.

There is a barrier, but it wasn't tall enough in this case. Pretty fucked up either way.
I wonder if, yes, the poles had been padded, and if his helmet had not come off, he would have lived.

I don't think padding the poles would have done much. Remember, he was going 80 miles an hour. What they should have had was a glass (well, safety-glass) wall separating the tracks from the poles, so that the sledder would hit the wall at a really low angle, rather then hitting a pole, padded or otherwise, straight on.
There is one way to make this sport safe: Ban it. Those calling for a "safer track" might as well be calling for a luge ban.

Dude, wtf are you talking about? The problems with the tracks could easily be fixed.
Canadian Olympic officials are cultivating a "home course advantage" by limiting competitors experience on these tracks. It's happening in the sliding and the skiing sports.
Canada kind of sucks.
posted by delmoi at 6:03 PM on February 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


if rumours are true about the whole homefield advantage boondoggle

The rumours are definitely true, it's been talked about for weeks. However, to say that limiting practice time on the track is in any way responsible for this tragedy is a big stretch. The line between life and death for professional athletes is not a few extra practice runs.
posted by Adam_S at 6:07 PM on February 12, 2010


the difference between 40 and 300+ isn't a "few extra".


it seems like the combination of extremely aggressive track that goes even faster than it's supposed to + limiting practice runs + not making the safety of the athletes of tantamount importance is having some consequences. who would have thought?
posted by nadawi at 6:17 PM on February 12, 2010


It was just a year ago, the International Luge Federation President said that the wooden protective devices near the track's curb are too short and that they needed to be lengthened to keep lugers from flying off the track.

I think this is where the problem and the solution lie.

If you look at the shots (1, 2) of him right before he hits the pole (NSFW, no blood, but he's about to die) you can see he rides on top of the wooden barrier and then over into the pole.

Were the wooden barrier 2-3 feet higher he likely would have bounced off of it and onto the track. The injuries would have been brutal (after all, people aren't designed to decelerate from 142km/h easily), but he would have very likely lived. The point of the wooden barrier is to do exactly that, just as a Jersey barrier is meant to not only keep cars from crossing into oncoming traffic but to also deflect them back into traffic.

Given that the track designers were expecting 137km/h top speeds for a track producing top speeds in excess of 150km/h (not to mention that you had the 44th ranked sledder clocking over 140km/h), you can see how it can be a design flaw.

Add in the "Own The Podium" strategy keeping the general luge community from really testing out the track and now you have inexperienced sledders going far faster than they can handle on a track that's not designed for those speeds.

I hope the people who pushed the "Own The Podium" crap have a sick feeling in their stomachs for years to come, because every Canadian gold is going to be stained with the blood of their hubris.
posted by dw at 6:19 PM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Only car racing, bull fighting and mountain climbing are real sports. Everything else is a child's game played by adults wearing costumes."

Hemingway or not ... I remember pointing this quote out to my ten year old nephew once (he was serious about hockey at the time).

"Who's Ernest Hemingway?" he asked.

"A famous writer," I said. "He eventually killed himself."

"I guess that makes writing a sport," said my nephew.
posted by philip-random at 6:25 PM on February 12, 2010 [28 favorites]


It's a tragic freak accident, but the hysterical overreaction from people who clearly don't know the first god damn thing about the sport is what's really depressing, as predictable as it is.

But isn't that the nature of most Olympic sports - that nobody really knows anything about them, other than the tiny niche of freaks who actually take part?

I regard the vast majority of the events - winter or summer - as weirdass esoteric sporting hobbies indulged in only by people with an autistic-like tolerance for doing the exact same thing over & over & over again for years of their lives (swimming is a perfect example) or else by people with far too much time & money on their hands & no better idea of what to do with themselves (eg downhill skiing & snowboarding).

So, once every four years, out of the woodwork come all these single-minded freaks who've deliberately chosen - of all the many & varied things a person might do with their lives - to specialise in jumping sideways over a bar, or perhaps to lie on a skateboard with ice-skate blades bolted onto it & slide down a frozen-over waterslide.

How or why on earth would you expect anybody else know the intricacies of these events? That's a bit like expecting the general public to know or care about competitive stamp collecting.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:34 PM on February 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


I hope the people who pushed the "Own The Podium" crap have a sick feeling in their stomachs for years to come, because every Canadian gold is going to be stained with the blood of their hubris.

I swear, there is not one thing about this Olympics, from the incongruous inukshuk logo, to the displaced homeless, to the made-in-China official clothing line, to the un-torchy torch, to the celebrities-in-front-of-a-greenscreen tourist ads, to the forced homecourt advantage, to the dead luger that doesn't make me, at the very least, disappointed, and at worst, deeply ashamed by how it's all been handled by my countrymen.

But, mark my words, there will be NO Canadian gold medals, and that will make up for everything.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:36 PM on February 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


The line between life and death for professional athletes is not a few extra practice runs.

True, but we are talking about luge, a sport that requires lightning quick reaction time, and we are talking about a course that is running as much as 20km/h faster than designed. You expect the best speed skaters to work out a track's consistency and how to win on it within a few hours of ice time. But apparently the lugers have just been let on to the course the last couple of days after getting just 8 days last November. And people were complaining about its safety then.
posted by dw at 6:40 PM on February 12, 2010


at the very least, disappointed, and at worst, deeply ashamed by how it's all been handled by my countrymen

I'm sad about the whole thing. I like Vancouver. It's a great town. But this Olympics is already looking like it's going to make Atlanta look good. It's the hubris of Berlin, the debt of Montreal, and the bad weather of Nagano all in one.
posted by dw at 6:42 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


The rumours are definitely true, it's been talked about for weeks. However, to say that limiting practice time on the track is in any way responsible for this tragedy is a big stretch. The line between life and death for professional athletes is not a few extra practice runs.

I disagree. If he had more time to practice, he might not have had to push himself so hard and fast the first time. Instead, he could have gotten a chance to get up to speed. But, I even if Canada had allowed more time, we don't know if this particular guy would have been able to get more runs in.
posted by delmoi at 7:07 PM on February 12, 2010


I'm not trying to be a dick, but why is somebody who died accidentally a hero?

I am also sick of the practice of calling anyone who dies tragically a hero, but I don't think it is off-base to say that all Olympic athletes qualify as heroes and heroines, especially to people who compete in and follow these sports.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:35 PM on February 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


My impression of the practice time controversy is that Americans are mad that Canadians aren't giving American athletes the kind of access to the Canadian facilities that Americans gave Canadian athletes back in 2002. Have other countries even noticed?
posted by Chuckles at 7:55 PM on February 12, 2010


I am also sick of the practice of calling anyone who dies tragically a hero, but I don't think it is off-base to say that all Olympic athletes qualify as heroes and heroines, especially to people who compete in and follow these sports.

Olympic level athleticism is entirely about taking things above and beyond, both in terms of commitment and, ultimately, attainment. If this is not on some level heroic, what is?
posted by philip-random at 8:00 PM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


That what makes something like car racing, or in this specific instance, luge racing, a sport, and something like baseball or football just a game.

Sorry, no. Baseball and football are sports. Luge is an event. You compete directly against another person/team? Sport. You take turns? Event.
posted by schoolgirl report at 8:10 PM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


My impression of the practice time controversy is that Americans are mad that Canadians aren't giving American athletes the kind of access to the Canadian facilities that Americans gave Canadian athletes back in 2002. Have other countries even noticed?

From the Macleans article linked above: "Earlier this week, Andy Schmid, the performance director of British Skeleton called the Canadian decision to limit practice time for overseas competitors (compared to the more than 300 runs set aside for Canadian athletes) as irresponsible."
posted by palliser at 8:21 PM on February 12, 2010


Fuck everyone who is entertained by this news. Fuck the Huffington Post with their breathless pose, fuck NBC for replaying the video endlessly, fuck all of us (me included) for gawking at the photos and videos of him smashing into the pillar.
posted by Nelson at 8:53 PM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


fuck all of us (me included) for gawking at the photos and videos of him smashing into the pillar.

Speak for yourself, I've done no such thing.
posted by Justinian at 8:58 PM on February 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm not trying to be a dick, but why is somebody who died accidentally a hero?

The correct term is "an hero", I believe.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:27 PM on February 12, 2010


The correct term is "an hero", I believe.

And this would matter because... why, exactly?

(Even if were correct.)
posted by SLC Mom at 9:48 PM on February 12, 2010


The correct term is "an hero", I believe.

And this would matter because... why, exactly?


I thought it was a quite clever reference to this, which eventually came around to the a/an h_____ question.

While I like the host cities themselves, in the let's-put-on-a-show-for-the-world spirit, I pretty much hate anything else associated with the Olympics organization. It has stopped being about the athletes to the point where they might as well devote the hundreds of hours of coverage to showing the organization and sponsors counting their money.
posted by troybob at 10:42 PM on February 12, 2010


Relay, I might tend to agree with you if competitors could push their performances to the limit while being sure that all reasonable safety precautions had been taken. Based on what I've read so far, that does not appear to be the case here.

That being said, you might consider turning down the contrarianism just a notch -- you're sounding like a dick.
posted by e-man at 10:51 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


.


(Whoever is responsible for having those pylons so close to the track need to have their arse severely kicked. Then sued the fuck off.)
posted by Duke999R at 12:05 AM on February 13, 2010


LOL@the "Canada killed him"/"Canada sucks" comments. All y'all rag my ass for being pissy about shit America does, especially to other countries. Logs in eyes, people; pots and kettles.

Also, .

And the Olympics are yet another way for the wealthy elite to bumfuck the public. $6bil boondoggle while we have way too many suffering people in this province.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:31 AM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Track will reopen tomorrow; only major change will be raising the wooden wall.
posted by dw at 12:31 AM on February 13, 2010


Which is to say the ILC, VANOC, IOC, and his coach killed him, not Canada.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:34 AM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


The death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili was a result of the athlete losing control of his sled and not an unsafe track, the International Luge Federation said Friday night in a statement.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:38 AM on February 13, 2010


There is a common and unnecessary habit to respond to tragedy by calling its victims heroes, but it debases the word and is, frankly, unfair to the dead.

Bullshit.

First, let me re-post philip-random's spot-on comment as the precise definition of what I meant by hero: "Olympic level athleticism is entirely about taking things above and beyond, both in terms of commitment and, ultimately, attainment. If this is not on some level heroic, what is?"

Olympic athletes inspire people from all walks of life, and some of those go on to become Olympians themselves. In the eyes of a young person dreaming of being an Olympian, that person is a hero. In the eyes of an Olympian's countrymen, the effort involved, even if one never medals, makes that person heroic for giving of themselves on behalf of their country.

There is nothing common about it. So no, I don't agree the word is debased, and I sure as Hell don't think it's unfair to Nodar, who like other Olympians had to work his ass off to get there.

And if you think I run around calling all accidents victims heroes you'd best think again; there are many forms of heroism, but all must be earned.
posted by bwg at 12:46 AM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sometimes freak accidents happen.
The course at Whistler has been in use by international competitors since 2007. It's fast and challenging, and many sliders have stated that they like it because of that. Even some Americans.
4-time Olympic athletes and senior officials in the sport have said that they've never in their lives seen an accident like this where an athlete leaves the track. And the track itself was built to international sliding federation standards, inspected, and approved.
Experts couldn't forsee this, but are taking steps to try and prevent it from happening again.

As for the "fuck the Own the Podium program" bullshit? Get a fucking clue. It's a national athletics program, not a kneecapping industry.
US coaches whine about not getting special treatment and better access to venues compared to every other country on the planet because they want a competitive advantage. They drag out that Lake Placid crap even though Canada didn't even have a sliding course at the time, and we already reciprocated the favour at the Calgary games. (Where Canada failed to earn a gold medal, by the way.)
The Whistler course is our home course, so of course we have more time on it. Don't like it? Tough titty. Home court advantage - deal with it.

I hate that people use this terrible tragedy in a sport that's inherently dangerous as an excuse to heap ignorant blame and scorn on scapegoats.
posted by Pseudonumb at 1:20 AM on February 13, 2010 [7 favorites]


Thank you Troybob.
posted by SLC Mom at 1:21 AM on February 13, 2010


no, 'an hero' is more likely a reference to this
posted by jacalata at 1:22 AM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Following Relay's logic, skydiving is a sport. I wholeheartedly agree, and everyone is aware of the risk involved before they fall. That said, I've never heard of anyone saying "here's a new, much smaller canopy which you must use to compete with -- we've been using it a lot lately, and we honestly think it's really way too small to be safe, about a 50% chance of landing without pain, despite all our practice.. good luck.. what? Practice? You're funny. Okay, a little bit."
Hypothetically, a new jumper would know this is a new canopy they've never tried before, so they should go for a long smooth entry. A competitive jumper would do that as little as possible before trying to come in as hot as possible, but if the wind is just a little off...

Maybe not the best analogy, but the general point here is that the players spent a lot of time practicing before the game got changed. Even the people who had longer to adapt to the new rules said this game is scary.
posted by hypersloth at 1:31 AM on February 13, 2010


one would also have to assume that in this case the skydiving competition were a race to the ground, which it sometimes personally is, but AFAIK never officially so.. for safety reasons.
posted by hypersloth at 1:38 AM on February 13, 2010


The death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili was a result of the athlete losing control of his sled and not an unsafe track, the International Luge Federation said Friday night in a statement.
Nonsense. That's a distinction without a difference.

They said the accident was "triggered by Kumaritashvili's failure to compensate for coming late out of the next-to-last curve, not by "deficiencies in the track." To put it another way, they're implying that it's reasonable that the consequence of 'failing to compensate for coming late out of a curve' would be death.

Sorry, but that's unconscionable. There are plenty of comman reasons why even a skilled athlete could not be reasonably expected to 'compensate', e.g. they suffer a fall that knocks them unconscious, stuns them, disorients them, injures them, puts them off balance, etc.

I've heard it implied that Nodar Kumaritashvili was inexperienced, and therefor his inexperience is to blame for his death. Perhaps. But Kumaritashvili was ranked 44th in this season's World Cup circuit. If that's not sufficient experience to avoid being blamed for your own death, then what is? Only people in the top 30? Top 20? What?

I'm sorry, but it sounds like they're blaming the victim to avoid the appearance of responsibility and culpability for his death.

At minimum the track design should never allow an athlete - conscious or unconscious - to be ejected from the track, yet alone be ejected at 90mph into a steel pole.

It would have been very easy to have added, say, plexiglass siding all the way up the side of the track with the steel beams, to make sure the athlete's body could not leave the track.

It sounds like they'll be raising the wall now - it's just a tragedy that it would take the death of a young athlete before they took such a basic precaution.

And what a shame that they're blaming the dead athlete on top of it. That sounds like something you'd expect from an American after talking to his lawyer.

It would have been more appropriate, and dare I say more Canadian, if they had simply apologized and taken full responsibility for the tragedy right from the start.
posted by Davenhill at 1:59 AM on February 13, 2010 [19 favorites]


As for the "fuck the Own the Podium program" bullshit? Get a fucking clue. It's a national athletics program, not a kneecapping industry...The Whistler course is our home course, so of course we have more time on it. Don't like it? Tough titty. Home court advantage - deal with it.

I hate that people use this terrible tragedy in a sport that's inherently dangerous as an excuse to heap ignorant blame and scorn on scapegoats.
Well, that's an appropriate response. Canada is a bunch of cheaters and it got somebody killed. Hopefully they don't earn a single gold this time either.
posted by delmoi at 2:12 AM on February 13, 2010


Pseudonumb, which I might add seems epony...anyway, I get what you're saying, and I'm not blaming Canada or condemning the sport and its natural evolution of faster and harder. I'm on board with that.
The problem I see is in oversight, that the hometown team wasn't comfortable with the track, yet it was still glorified. Don't want any lawsuits or anything, just really thought we already had all kinds of computer modeling to prevent stuff like this from happening -- pretty sure they run programs to check out all kinds of scenarios far outside of tolerance ranges on rollercoasters before they actually build them.

Anyway, hope they learn something and nobody else has to die in the name of a friendly competition between nations claiming to put aside their differences and have some fun.
posted by hypersloth at 2:17 AM on February 13, 2010


Everyone who says that there is nothing wrong with the track and the sliders just assume the risk is full of shit as evidenced by the decision to raise the wall where Kumaritashvili flew off the track.

Also, it is not about the camera angles; a camera on that side of the wall isn't going to see anything. Cameras go on the inside, not the outside of curves.
posted by caddis at 5:19 AM on February 13, 2010


Canada is a bunch of cheaters and it got somebody killed.

This is ridiculous hyperbole. At absolute worst, the homefield-advantage issue is reneging on a gentleman's agreement. Multiple non-Canadian coaches have said that they would do the same if they were put in Canada's shoes. To go further and blame this man's death on the issue is absurd, particularly given that the Georgian team has been training at the facility for over a month.
posted by Adam_S at 6:17 AM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


How the fuck does that work?

"The track has no deficiencies!"

"So we're going to raise the wall where he died!"

One of these things is not like the other!?!?
posted by cavalier at 6:24 AM on February 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


It has no deficiencies so long as you make a perfect run.

God help you if you take a turn wrong...
posted by mazola at 6:31 AM on February 13, 2010


The crash that resulted in the death of the luge athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili was caused by his errors on the course and not a deficiency in the Whistler Sliding Centre course, the Olympic organizing committee and the sport’s international governing body said in a joint statement issued late Friday.

I eagerly await Nodar Kumaritashvili's rebuttal. Oh wait.

Two things:
  1. I think you could say it was the rider's fault if he actively tried to run the sled off the track, or
  2. he showed gross incompetence in riding the track
I don't believe anyone is arguing the former. As for the latter, the Olympics enacted the Eddie the Eagle rule specifically to ensure that those competing had necessary competence and did not put themselves at risk.

Nodor made the cut, so the inexperience argument seems really weak to me. He's inexperienced, but at a very expert level. The track should forgive that level of inexperience and reward excellence. None of that means having to protect against outright incompetence.
posted by mazola at 7:04 AM on February 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Davenhill, that's exactly how I felt about that statement from the International Luge Federation. So the acceptable price for failing to compensate for an error in sport is death?
posted by merocet at 7:11 AM on February 13, 2010


"We are going to have to put in speed limits for the next track which will be built for sure for the next Olympics. We think 155 km/h should be the limit. We have to take care of the security of our athletes.

...

Guntis Rekis of Latvia and Germany's Stefan Hoehner both had high-speed crashes on Thursday.

"My goals are to stay alive, not break and bones and catch some good Whistler feeling," Rekis told reporters.

"I was scared a bit."



From an article written before the fatal crash.
posted by mazola at 7:53 AM on February 13, 2010


.
posted by obloquy at 8:29 AM on February 13, 2010


The FIL's technical officials concluded that "there was no indication that the accident was caused by deficiencies in the track," leaving human error to blame.
————
I'm sorry, but it sounds like they're blaming the victim to avoid the appearance of responsibility and culpability for his death.— Davenhill

Agreed.



1] "However, the FIL did announce that the walls will be raised at the exit of curve 16 and the ice profile will be changed as a preventive measure."



2]"Even before the accident several experts were critical of the track, and they were echoed following the crash of the 21-year-old luger."



3] "In the wake of the tragedy, the president of the World Luge Federation weighed in with sharply critical comments about the track at the Whistler Sliding Centre."

"The track is too fast," Joseph Fendt, president of the World Luge Federation, told London's Daily Telegraph.

"We had planned it to be a maximum of 137 kilometres an hour, but it is about 20 km/h faster. We think this is a planning mistake."




4] "The head of the Georgian Olympics delegation agreed.

"I don't know how he died but I can tell you one thing, the track was really very bad," Irakly Japaridze told the New York Times."




5] "Shortly before the crash, American luger Bengt Walden, who had just crashed in his run, said that IFL officials had already expressed concerns about the speed of the track.

"I don't think they're going to build more faster tracks than this," he said when asked if this one was at the outer limit of how fast a track can be. "The (federation) was almost unhappy with how fast the track turned out to be but we'll see."

Moments later, Kumaritashvili crashed."





I don't know what girders are doing so close to the track near the exit of a long run. In Europe they cut down trees which were too close to highways because of fatalities, why wouldn't the same considerations be given an athletic course?

Even the slalom runs have fences at critical points to retain the skier on track should they go out of control.

The designers of this track failed to do this here.
posted by alicesshoe at 8:55 AM on February 13, 2010


Seems that no one has mentioned that the course was designed by a German engineer, not a Canadian.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:01 AM on February 13, 2010


Data on the track.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:04 AM on February 13, 2010


Seems that no one has mentioned that the course was designed by a German engineer, not a Canadian.

Probably because whoever designed the course is inconsequential to the point that the Canadian committee that approved the course is ultimately responsible.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:04 AM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


the Canadian committee that approved the course is ultimately responsible

The course needs to be and was certified by the international luge, bobsleigh and skeleton federations. (Quote near the bottom) It's not exclusively the responsibility of Canadian officials.
posted by Adam_S at 9:23 AM on February 13, 2010


Data on the track.
posted by five fresh fish



Deaths: 1
posted by Trochanter at 9:25 AM on February 13, 2010


Canada is a bunch of cheaters and it got somebody killed. Hopefully they don't earn a single gold this time either.

Before I read this stupid comment I couldn't have cared less about the Olympics or Canada's gold count. Now I'll be cheering every time we clinch a medal.

I don't know whether to thank delmoi or flip him off.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:28 AM on February 13, 2010


The course needs to be and was certified by the international luge, bobsleigh and skeleton federations. (Quote near the bottom) It's not exclusively the responsibility of Canadian officials.

Good point. Let me amend my comment: Presumably many plans for the track were submitted by many different people from many different places. The winning design would have been chosen by a group of people (presumably the Canadian organizers) and then approved by another group (international ice-tube racers federations), and it is those people who are ultimately responsible for any problems resulting from a dangerous track. Therefore I don't see what fff's point is in highlighting the nationality of the engineer or the architect.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:32 AM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Men's luge to begin from women's start at Vancouver 2010
posted by Chuckles at 9:58 AM on February 13, 2010


I'm just saying you can Blame Germany! because their engineer/track-designer obviously did not do a good job of simulating the track to determine its safety. Ultimately, responsibility must fall back to him.

Actually, the truth is that I've a bee in my bonnet: I take an awful lot of shit for calling out “America” for its depraved and sociopathic behaviours on the global stage, vis a vis slaughtering tens and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians and the Gitmo/Abu Ghraib tortures and so on and so forth. Endless howls of how unfair it is to blame America because not all Americans are douchebags. And yet here we are, witnessing endless cries of Blame Canada. The duplicity is remarkable. It seems we've a double standard here on MeFi.

I'll drop it now, though. Go ahead and get all South Park. Blame Canada!
posted by five fresh fish at 9:59 AM on February 13, 2010


tommasz - breaking World Records. I don't know exactly what the cache is, but it's the #1 goal for the stadium and run designers.

So a luger dies to determine the outcome of a "whose dick is bigger" contest? They must be so proud of themselves. It sure does seem like the athletes are the least important aspect of this anyway, what with their silly mistakes getting in the way.

Maybe the gold medal should go to the designer.
posted by tommasz at 10:03 AM on February 13, 2010


I'm just saying you can Blame Germany! because their engineer/track-designer obviously did not do a good job of simulating the track to determine its safety. Ultimately, responsibility must fall back to him.

No, the responsibility does not fall back on the engineer. I understand that you are not arguing in good faith here and instead are trying to grind a personal axe unrelated to the Olympics, so this will be my last comment on the subject, but here goes: The engineers and the designers are not responsible for the safety of the track (unless of course they have been instructed to change the track in some way and they did not do so). As an example: if I submit a bid to the Olympic committee which involves a track that includes a seventy degree grade, two loop-de-loops, a fiery gauntlet of swinging chains, and a ramp that propels the luge riders over a pit of tigers, then that's great for me, and I'm probably an idiot, but it is the responsibility of the committee that approves the track designs to reject my design and approve one that is more safe.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:12 AM on February 13, 2010


So the engineers of roller coasters, NASA shuttles, and Toyota gas pedals are not responsible for their designs? Huh. I wouldn't have thunk it.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:17 AM on February 13, 2010


So the engineers of roller coasters, NASA shuttles, and Toyota gas pedals are not responsible for their designs? Huh. I wouldn't have thunk it.

I don't understand why you're willfully misunderstanding or misrepresenting my point.

The engineers at Toyota were given a task, and they failed. They did not make the gas pedals as they were designed or intended to work.

The engineers working on the luge track were given a task, and succeeded. They created the track exactly as it was designed and intended. Therefore they completed their job admirably and with skill. Those who approved the design, however, did not.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:30 AM on February 13, 2010


I guess this is probably where I sign off. I'm not really interested in having a "who has a bigger persecution complex, Canadians or Americans?" argument.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:36 AM on February 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


and it is those people who are ultimately responsible for any problems resulting from a dangerous track

No, the responsibility does not fall back on the engineer.


No I think it's safe to say the engineers would certainly be involved in any discussion of who is liable for this death if it's found to be a result of negligence, but probably not exclusively. From the articles I've read, this luge run was not designed to run as fast as it has been--I think that indicates something went wrong either with design or construction. Ultimately determining where liability lies will require determining whether the people building/designing/approving the luge run had any ability to foresee that this course was some kind of a death trap, or any reason to suspect it would be unacceptably dangerous by comparison to other luge runs. We are talking about luge, after all, it's inherently dangerous.

I'm not sure at this point whether anyone who's not an angry internet guy is actually alleging negligence, but I think it may be wise to calm down a little until more information is available.
posted by Kirk Grim at 10:49 AM on February 13, 2010


The committee that approved this run isn't made up of physics experts, they rely on the experts (engineers) to let them know if there are deficiencies.
posted by Kirk Grim at 10:54 AM on February 13, 2010


It seems we've a double standard here on MeFi.

There is no double standard. You have long had a broadbrush animus towards the US, but the moment people start saying things untoward about Canada you get all defensive. Like an American.

If you're going to dish it, you better be willing to take it, too.

But I'm with (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates on this. I don't want to get into a "who has a bigger dickpersecution complex" argument because they always end up as pointless screeds.

End of the day, the Georgian luger died because of a combination of poor design, negligence, inexperience, and a poorly thought out Canadian Olympic policy. And no amount of bloviation will bring him back.
posted by dw at 10:59 AM on February 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


And yet here we are, witnessing endless cries of Blame Canada. Canadian Olympic officials who approved a track with severe safety deficiencies while simultaneously preventing foreigners from fully practicing on said track in the months leading to the games.

But hey, only you could bring up Abu Fucking Graib in a post about a luge track, so shine on, you crazy diamond.
posted by dirigibleman at 11:20 AM on February 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


Didn't all the various governing bodies of the sport sign off on this track?
posted by Trochanter at 11:25 AM on February 13, 2010


I guess this is probably where I sign off. I'm not really interested in having a "who has a bigger persecution complex, Canadians or Americans?" argument.

No argument at all. Americans have the bigger persecution complex. Canada's issue is inferiority. We're just damned glad to get noticed.

End of the day, the Georgian luger died because of a combination of poor design, negligence, inexperience, and a poorly thought out Canadian Olympic policy. And no amount of bloviation will bring him back..

Couldn't agree more. This reflects on the last line of my initial comment:

It will be interesting to watch the various responsible parties (course designers, Olympic officials etc) cover their asses on this one.

I've had enough experience with various organizations and ambitious individuals to know that there will likely never be a suitable resolution as to "who is responsible" here, other than perhaps everyone who felt they had something to gain from this particular Olympics, this particular event, this particular facility.

As a long time motor racing fan, this kind of situation is hardly new. Witness the death of Greg Moore at California Speedway in 1999. He lost control at well over 200 mph but only died because the grass verge at the inside edge of the track was bisected by paved service road which sent his spinning car airborne into a cement wall. Needless to say, a year later that grass was gone; the whole area was paved flat (ie: no sudden car-flipping changes in topography). A lesson was learned and acted upon, tragically too late for Mr. Moore.
posted by philip-random at 11:27 AM on February 13, 2010


Hey, I'm all for blaming Canadian Olympic officials, VANOC, IOC, and a bunch of other assholes. And as "if you dish it, take it," you'll note that I did the LOL thing. Nor have I gone into personal attack mode, which is more than I can say for the reverse.

And to clarify, I have animus toward US Government policies, and certain neanderthal sections of gay-bashing, woman-hating American society. I also have animus toward the current Canadian and BC governments, and the retrograde douchebags who are hurting this country.

I wanted to make a point. I have made the point. And, like Hall and Oates, I shall desist in derailing now. But do let's keep this "dish it, take it" idea in mind next time the US government commits an international crime and I call it out. Gooses and ganders, my friend.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:29 AM on February 13, 2010



Didn't all the various governing bodies of the sport sign off on this track?


Yes. But they've also since expressed some concern that it's too fast, more than 20 km/h faster than designed.
posted by Kirk Grim at 11:30 AM on February 13, 2010


Wait, you mean Canadian's have been training on/in Canadian venues? Next you'll tell me the Dutch practiced in Holland!
posted by jjb at 11:49 AM on February 13, 2010


The track has now been changed so that the men start from a lower point (same point the women do), some ice and snow has been shaved down, and the wall has been built up.

And it only took one person dying to get them to make the track safer! Grar.
posted by misha at 1:08 PM on February 13, 2010


Link to track changes.
posted by misha at 1:09 PM on February 13, 2010


Why, in the face of a tragic death, is the first reaction of so many people here to find someone to blame? Why people are equating Canada wanting to build the world's most challenging luge course with criminal negligence? I have to assume these athletes represent the world's best, and AFAIK this is probably the biggest international luge competition. Seems like a good place for the world's most challenging luge course, and I certainly wouldn't fault Canada for trying to make it so. I mean, the Olympic motto is "Faster, Higher, Stronger," isn't it?

Let's not forget that the luge course built for the Olympics in Utah was considered the world's fastest prior to this course, and had the world speed record set at 139.4 km/h. The course in Whistler was apparently designed for an estimated top speed of 137 km/h. Athletes are currently clocking speeds way faster than that and that's a problem, but to think they designed this course with the understanding that people were going to be reaching speeds in excess of 150km/h is a bit of a leap. I'm not sure why everyone is assuming this is evidence of Canada knowingly and negligently approving an unsafe design. Can someone show me where "the committee that approved this" asked for a course that was to be fast, dangerous, and safety be damned? Prior to this training week, there was little evidence that this course was particularly dangerous, having 30,000+ runs and crash ratios similar to other luge courses.
posted by Kirk Grim at 1:11 PM on February 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


The crash that resulted in the death of the luge athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili was caused by his errors on the course and not a deficiency in the Whistler Sliding Centre course, the Olympic organizing committee and the sport’s international governing body said in a joint statement issued late Friday.

Huh. So I guess that's why they've since shaved off a chunk of the track to prevent repeat derails and are currently making all the men start at the women's start to slow them down a bit.

Grar.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:42 PM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I mean, the Olympic motto is "Faster, Higher, Stronger," isn't it?

I'm looking for "As close to death as possible" in that motto, but I'm just not seeing it.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:43 PM on February 13, 2010


Why people are equating Canada wanting to build the world's most challenging luge course with criminal negligence?

Well at least nobody's suggesting this.

Yet.
posted by mazola at 3:13 PM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm looking for "As close to death as possible" in that motto, but I'm just not seeing it.

I don't know much about luge or physics. I can't comment on the design of the course in question, but I'm having a hard time with the implication that the intention of the designers of this course was to get athletes "as close to death as possible." It seems to be getting taken for granted in this thread. The guy that designed the thing was by all indications experienced, and had in fact designed the luge courses for 3 previous Olympics.

Now I'll follow the lead of a few others and duck out of here. But as a Canadian guy in Vancouver, I'd like to state, formally, to anyone reading:

I promise we're not trying to kill you*, and we're sad about this, too.





*historically this doesn't always apply to hockey
posted by Kirk Grim at 3:34 PM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


NY Times interactive graphic.
posted by mazola at 4:10 PM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


but I'm having a hard time with the implication that the intention of the designers of this course was to get athletes "as close to death as possible."

Given the stat that only four athletes have ever been killed during Olympics competition (including training), I think the last thing anyone expected was death or serious injury. But it did happen and, as such, we MUST inquire as to why. In this regard, two things instantly come to mind.

1. the fact that this was considered the fastest course in the world and that the International Luge Federation (or whatever they're called) had already claimed, "Enough already" (ie: they knew this course was dangerous, just not THAT dangerous)

2. the fact that the Canadian coach is rather creepily bemoaning the changes that have been made to the course. I don't think it takes too much imagination here to read this as a guy who's just seen his team's "unfair advantage" taken away from them by the fact that the course they've had all kinds of time to master has now been significantly changed, thus "leveling the playing field" somewhat. And yes, moving the start line (and thus lowering speeds throughout the course) is a very significant change for a sport in which mastery is all about high-speed detail and nuance.

I for one sincerely hope that Canada wins no medals on this course.
posted by philip-random at 4:20 PM on February 13, 2010


One would think another thing might instantly spring to your mind: the fact that the crash rate on this track is about the same as for other tracks.

Oh, wait, no. That would require thinking with your head instead of your gut.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:04 PM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


five fresh fish, I don't think anyone intentionally designed the track to be deadly! I do think that, given the many crashes within the practice trial rounds, it shouldn't have taken a death for changes to be made.

I can understand that a Canadian might feel defensive about this happening on your watch, bt the crash rate on this track being about the same as the other tracks?

According to figures released by the FIL, there have been more than 5,000 luge runs on the track -- Kumaritashvili had 26 runs here, 16 from the men's start -- and officials said the crash rate is not unusual, about 3 percent. Including all starting spots -- men's, women's, junior and novice -- in all events, there have been more than 30,000 runs on the track and 340 sled turnovers that required emergency medical response. The crash rate, however, has nearly quadrupled in the past year.
posted by misha at 5:17 PM on February 13, 2010


from http://www.ctvolympics.ca/news-centre/newsid=8935.html

In some instances, VANOC and the sports federations have increased access.

The new track at the Whistler Sliding Centre - home to bobsled, luge and skeleton - is so fast and technical, extra training weeks have been added, said Priestner Allinger.

That didn't happen prior to the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy, said Jeff Christie, a luge athlete from Vancouver.

"At the Olympics in Italy we had zero extra,'' said Christie. "They actually gave us less than exactly what we were supposed to get. They didn't have any qualms about it because they gave their home team the advantage.

"In a sport like luge, that's the way it goes. I go onto other tracks in the world, a lot of the German tracks, where I get six runs before a World Cup event and they train on it their whole lives.''


Okay, so the Canadians decide to play the game the way that most of the rest of world does and, as it usually is for those of us who try to be "nice guys," when we take a shot at being selfish we get caught. So I get it that people are up in arms about it. But for shit's sake, the self-righteous tone of most of these posts is really disappointing. This kind of snarkiness -- I'm sure glad Relay isn't my Dad! Whew.
posted by JBennett at 3:17 PM on February 12 [13 favorites +] [!]
-- stuff really limits decent discussion about the causal issues: free will, blind ambition, human limits, and the exploitative media culture that fuels this sort of tragedy.

.
posted by kneecapped at 6:24 PM on February 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


NY Times interactive graphic.

Awesome. Be sure to click through to picture #8, which seems to show about 0.1seconds before death at impact. The SFChron decided to run explicit photos on the front sports page, too, 6 frames with two or three showing a soon-to-be-lifeless-body flinging into the columns. If only blood were visible, preferably red on the white ice.
posted by Nelson at 6:43 PM on February 13, 2010


But now they're bitching that it's too slow!

Good grief. What a loser games this is.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:44 PM on February 13, 2010


mazola: "NY Times interactive graphic."

Wow.
posted by Big_B at 7:57 PM on February 13, 2010


Kneecapped,

Thanks for that link. Looks indeed like this off the field play finally killed someone.
posted by effugas at 8:07 PM on February 13, 2010


If this horrible thing happened during competition I'd give a lot more credence to the evil/incompetent Canadian theories. But the poor guy died during a PRACTICE RUN. Not sure how the promise of another 260 practice runs would've increased his odds of a long life.

Seems to me this is a tragedy that will prove to be a watershed point in the evolution of the sport.

Are Americans -- or those in charge of the Long Beach track -- responsible for the death of Greg Moore? Nope. But lessons are learned, changes are made and the examples are damn near endless.

Last, it seems to me a key element in heroism is selflessness. That's the difference between a hero and a badass. Not that there's anything wrong with just being a badass.


.
posted by raider at 8:11 PM on February 13, 2010


I disagree that you can't put padding on a steel beam that could have insured survival. 2 to 3' of special thick compressing foam would probably do the trick. The padding shown in the picture of misha's track changes link, which looks to be a couple of inches, is pretty useless and is probably only being put on to placate the public.
posted by eye of newt at 8:31 PM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm loving the cop's responses in this rabble-rousing effort by the Straight.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:58 PM on February 13, 2010


raider,

The video game industry has something called Kleenex testers -- they play a game for 8 hours, and that's all the play. Anything more, and you don't know what first-timers are going to experience.

It is possible that the risky portions of this run were quickly learned by the Canadians. If more foreign riders had more first time experiences with the course, perhaps it would have been discovered more than a few days before the start of the games that there was a problem. Maybe even there would have been enough *near* accidents, to have pushed a fix.

We know this course ran much faster than expected. Why did it take so long to find this out? Why weren't the simulations updated, so as to discern the possible risk of flying off the track? It really comes down to, not enough time, and the only cause of that I can find is that there weren't problems for those who quickly trained themselves up to expert without problem.

Again, to be clear -- this is apparently a problem with Luge, not with Canada. But, oh, what a problem it is.
posted by effugas at 12:06 AM on February 14, 2010


If this horrible thing happened during competition I'd give a lot more credence to the evil/incompetent Canadian theories. But the poor guy died during a PRACTICE RUN. Not sure how the promise of another 260 practice runs would've increased his odds of a long life.

The reasoning I have heard goes along the lines of "Since practice time was limited, foreign sliders had to push harder and be more aggressive in the few runs they had, instead of taking time to really learn the track at slower speeds."
posted by Rock Steady at 7:32 AM on February 14, 2010


I'll say that I'm confused between the discrepancy between kneecapped's article from April 2009, and the NY Times article from Sept 2009. The Times article even quotes the executive director of Luge Canada saying they have an advantage because they used it a lot more. The article further states "Canadian athletes will have had hundreds of trips down what is widely considered the world’s most treacherous course. Foreign athletes will have had a few dozen."

So...which is it? Case of Canadians "playing the game like the rest of the world" and then "being too nice" as kneecapped says? Or is the NY Times article correct, and that stuff is hooey?
posted by inigo2 at 8:26 AM on February 14, 2010


In defence of kneecap, the same Times article has this quote: "That’s the nature of our sport — every country has an advantage on its own track." And kneecap didn't say the Canadians are being "too nice", he's said that this is the one time they weren't being nice, but that when you are usually "too nice" and act as selfishly as everyone else you get criticized more than anyone else.

That being said, I think the special criticism isn't because Canadians are usually nice, it is because someone died. The criticism shouldn't be directed at the Canadians specifically, but against the general practice of enforced home-field advantage.
posted by eye of newt at 8:59 AM on February 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


Actually, the truth is that I've a bee in my bonnet: I take an awful lot of shit for calling out “America” for its depraved and sociopathic behaviours on the global stage, vis a vis slaughtering tens and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians and the Gitmo/Abu Ghraib tortures and so on and so forth. Endless howls of how unfair it is to blame America because not all Americans are douchebags. And yet here we are, witnessing endless cries of Blame Canada. The duplicity is remarkable. It seems we've a double standard here on MeFi.
Obviously negative feedback is a lot more noticeable then positive feedback. But if you think the majority of mefi posters, or even the majority of American mefi posters complain about anti-Americanism on this site you're delusional.

And anyway, since I personally have never complained about anyone complaining about America, I assume I'm excluded from your "double standard" right? In fact, which specific Mefites have both complained about your anti-Americanism and about Canada? Is there a single specific person? I doubt it. Double standards are held by individuals. Obviously multiple people are going to have multiple standards.

But seriously, your argument is "I complain about America all the time, therefore, it's unfair for Americans to complain about my country". That's a pretty big of a double standard that you've got.

Also, the "Canada cheated, got this guy killed" like was over the top. But Pseudonumb "Accidents happen, experts couldn't foresee this, Get a fucking clue, we didn't do anything wrong, bla bla" comment pissed me off and so I made an over the top response.
posted by delmoi at 11:02 AM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


The following quote from this SI article clarifies for me some of the discrepancies between the two articles I mentioned above:

"The fact that Canadians got extra practice on the course was a point of heated contention even before Kumaritashvili's death, and it only intensified after the accident. Canadian athletes got 250 or more runs in Whistler, while athletes from other countries only got around 40. Such a home-course advantage is customary in the sliding world, but the sheer speed of the Whistler course -- lugers have reached speeds in the high 90s, over 10 mph faster than any other course in the world -- had athletes and coaches questioning the decision to limit access. On Saturday, VANOC officials said the track was opened for extra training in January to all sliders who were lower than 30th in World Cup rankings. Kumaritashvili does not appear to have visited during the extra training period, however."
posted by inigo2 at 11:14 AM on February 14, 2010


And, if I had continued reading:

"Canada invested $117 million in its Own the Podium initiative to attempt to top the medal count, and the program's CEO, Roger Jackson, said before the Games that he didn't mind the grumbling from other countries about course access. "I'm glad there's a little nervousness," he said. "That's exactly what we want." Cockerline added that complaints about access are the norm, and that maybe more training time should be granted, but "if we'd given everybody more runs, that's trouble, too. We might win less medals and there was a lot of money invested in that.""
posted by inigo2 at 11:22 AM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Btw, even if restricting other people's access to the track isn't "cheating" it's certainly poor sportsmanship.
posted by delmoi at 11:44 AM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


delmoi: But Pseudonumb "Accidents happen, experts couldn't foresee this, Get a fucking clue, we didn't do anything wrong, bla bla" comment pissed me off and so I made an over the top response.

Why? Without knowledge of crash statistics at other tracks, how can you even begin to form a strong opinion on this? Is it common for someone to crash in way that throws them out of the track? Do other tracks have higher walls? If yes, then the (apparently experienced) track designer, olympic governing body, and Canadian committee all overlooked this and bear some responsibility. If no, then it is an accident.

Based on a couple of comments by top lugers, it does not appear getting thrown from the track is a common occurrence:

http://in.reuters.com/article/worldOfSport/idINIndia-46145820100213

Obviously now more investigation is warranted to see if this happens elsewhere and just goes unreported due to fortunate lack of major injuries and also if the speed increase does play a significant factor. The question is whether this could have been reasonably foreseen. It clearly is possible, although we still don't know how likely it is.

Unfortunately sports that are dangerous and push the boundaries learn safety constraints through injuries. It is tragic when it is a career or life ending injury is the one that provides the lesson.

Proper investigation is important, but leaping to immediate blame is pointless and hurtful (even worse when people attack the victim and point to vague things like "inexperience" when they can't find anything else to heap the blame on).

Btw, even if restricting other people's access to the track isn't "cheating" it's certainly poor sportsmanship.

Unless it is the norm in every event, then it is just sports. The fact that the governing body has specific rules on how much access non-local teams get seems to indicate this is a common issue. According to reports the Canadian organization followed the rules fairly.
posted by stp123 at 12:19 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've been watching some luging videos on youtube to try to get a sense of how different Whistler is from other venues. Other luge courses, including past Olympic tracks (such as Salt Lake) have exposed steel beams right next to the track - not just at the end, but sometimes in the middle of the course. Examples (some crashes in these videos, but no serious injury): 1, 2 (at 0:28), 3.

Just trying to add a bit more context - exposed steel beams trackside are in no way unique to Whistler.

Also: POV view of a luge run down the Whistler track.
posted by pcameron at 1:04 PM on February 14, 2010


Based on a couple of comments by top lugers, it does not appear getting thrown from the track is a common occurrence:

No doubt. And then someone builds a faster, wilder track ... all thrills and nerves until something completely unexpected (outside the envelope) happens and holy shit! Tragedy.

An accident? Yes.
Foreseeable? Maybe.

Cockerline added that complaints about access are the norm, and that maybe more training time should be granted, but "if we'd given everybody more runs, that's trouble, too. We might win less medals and there was a lot of money invested in that.""

Glad to hear that at least on some level we can blame this on f***ing economics.
posted by philip-random at 1:28 PM on February 14, 2010


Cockerline added that complaints about access are the norm, and that maybe more training time should be granted, but "if we'd given everybody more runs, that's trouble, too. We might win less medals and there was a lot of money invested in that.""

You know, there are many ways to win medals.

Drugs.
A swift blow to your opponent's kneecap.
Bribery.

We call these ways cheating, because they aren't about the athleticism of the event, they're about dirty tricks before the competition has even started.

Dirty tricks are problematic because they're uninteresting and distressingly fatal. They're not something anyone wants to aspire to, they're the sort of things that sane people stay the hell away from. In the realm of dirty tricks, medals aren't a sign of glory, they're a sign of darkness and distaste.

I want to stress that I don't think Canada's doing anything different than anyone else with its runs. This isn't a Canadian problem. It's a problem in the world of worldwide sport, much like steroids was. But I don't think people should respect local wins on sports with localized tracks for now. They're tainted -- with blood.
posted by effugas at 3:12 PM on February 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


much like steroids was.

Was?
posted by Chuckles at 6:52 PM on February 14, 2010


Sounds like Cockerline's surname suits him to a T.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:18 PM on February 14, 2010


The irony of Cockerline's comments are that nobody I've heard has suggested that Canadian lugers were even remotely considered medal possibilites, and Edney's 7th place finish was considered a huge achievement.
posted by Adam_S at 8:13 AM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Luger who died told father he was terrified of Whistler track
posted by homunculus at 8:48 AM on February 15, 2010


Was?

They're all doing gene modification now.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:52 AM on February 15, 2010


"Canada invested $117 million in its Own the Podium initiative to attempt to top the medal count, and the program's CEO, Roger Jackson, said before the Games that he didn't mind the grumbling from other countries about course access. "I'm glad there's a little nervousness," he said. "That's exactly what we want." Cockerline added that complaints about access are the norm, and that maybe more training time should be granted, but "if we'd given everybody more runs, that's trouble, too. We might win less medals and there was a lot of money invested in that."

Own the Problem?

But seriously, I guess the trick is finding out what the problem actually was. Like an aircraft accident, this would seem to be a complex mix of contributing factors.

The athlete made errors during the run, but this should harm him in the standings and not take his life.

The athlete lost control of his sled exiting a turn. The course was designed to throw him back on the course. It did. I'll assume the course designers did not anticipate the rider bouncing back out of the course. What protections should be considered for this kind of secondary incident? Anything? Those 'in the know' in luging seem genuinely surprised that this happened and there is a historic safety track record to back them up. Those who don't know the sport from squat (most everybody) seem surprised that this doesn't happen all the time.

If it's so important that riders do not err in riding the track (after all, if they get killed on the track it's their own damn fault!) how much of this OTP intimidation is to blame? The faster track means you must not only make instantaneous decisions, but also the right ones. Not having adequate experience to know the course puts real and psychological pressures that can only encourage sledding errors and their subsequent (and unpredictable?) results.

Given that the Olympics and sport is always about pushing the boundaries of performance, the spotlight should rightly be focused on course designers, the safety testing, the included safeguards, athlete qualifications and training, and the mechanism of responding to when reality breaks the model.

In short, it's everybody's problem.

posted by mazola at 9:22 AM on February 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


The athlete made errors during the run, but this should harm him in the standings and not take his life.

That's true, but I'm still not seeing any indication that making an error on the Whistler track is certain death. There are many sports where an error or freak accident can lead to death or serious injury, and I think it's possible that luge is one of them.

It's also weird to see such animosity towards what really looks like a fairly innocuous national sports funding and research program like Own the Podium. You can count me among the ranks that would have rather seen those public funds spent elsewhere, but it appears the biggest issue here is that "Own the Podium" is an ugly slogan in light of this tragedy, not to mention in light of the spirit of sportsmanship (what is this, Xbox Live?). That's ultimately a PR issue though, not a reason to hate on Canada and accuse them of murder.

The fact that the governing body has specific rules on how much access non-local teams get seems to indicate this is a common issue. According to reports the Canadian organization followed the rules fairly.

Sportsmanship means more than playing by the rules. It's about fellowship with your competitors. Giving more practice runs to our competitors, some of whom were concerned about the difficulty of this track, would have gone a long way toward at least giving the appearance we weren't trying to squeeze every last drop out of our home-field advantage at the expense of our competitors' safety. But hindsight is 20/20, yadda yadda.
posted by Kirk Grim at 12:45 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


but it appears the biggest issue here is that "Own the Podium" is an ugly slogan in light of this tragedy, not to mention in light of the spirit of sportsmanship (what is this, Xbox Live?).

Actually, that would be Pwn The Odium.
posted by The World Famous at 12:55 PM on February 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


Why? Without knowledge of crash statistics at other tracks, how can you even begin to form a strong opinion on this?

I think this is a little silly. It's like demanding that you review crash ratings on all subcompacts before even commenting on issues with Ford Mustangs. The Whistler track is way faster than any track on the planet -- 10mph faster, which is pretty huge.

That's true, but I'm still not seeing any indication that making an error on the Whistler track is certain death. There are many sports where an error or freak accident can lead to death or serious injury, and I think it's possible that luge is one of them.

I agree that freak accidents are always a possibility, and luge is going to have its share. Maybe the Georgian was the victim of poor judgment on a track that is incredibly fast and incredibly unforgiving. But a wooden wall would have deflected him back into the track and kept him from riding into the pole, and as mentioned before, the head of the luge governing body asked VANOC to extend the wall, something they did not do. That the wall wasn't extended in the first place comes back to the track running much faster than designed -- and indeed, even with the lower start the top 1/3 or so of runs were still exceeding the 137kph design speed (topping out at 144kph, IIRC).

This could be a freak accident, but there was a known issue at the end of the track, and it wasn't alleviated before a luger died.

It's also weird to see such animosity towards what really looks like a fairly innocuous national sports funding and research program like Own the Podium.

I think there are limits to how much of an advantage you can create over your opponents. The Germans spend millions on luge sled design, and this is seen as acceptable. The Americans have the best facilities in the world, and this is seen as acceptable. Had the Canadians focused on experience, equipment, and facilities, I don't think people would have been quick to attack Own The Podium. But in limiting non-Canadians' access to the Olympic facilities, they were inviting the criticism that followed.

And yes, Own The Podium was a silly and stupid name. Sounds like a name you'd see the USOC throwing out there.
posted by dw at 4:27 PM on February 15, 2010


Had the Canadians focused on experience, equipment, and facilities

It doesn't cost $117 million to limit your opponents' access to facilities. Experience, equipment, and facilities are the areas where this program was focused. That's all I meant there, sorry. I'm in complete agreement that limiting opponents' times was a bad decision and reflects badly on us, and it was pretty stupid that they didn't put up a wall at the end of the track if it was recommended. I mean, there's no shortage of wood in BC.

I just remembered I said I'd get out of this thread, like 2 days ago. Sorry guys.

OWN THE LUGE THREAD
posted by Kirk Grim at 4:52 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Every sponsoring country limits access to its luge tracks.

I don't care to watch the video of him dying again, but I think the track did deflect him back into the track. Wasn't it the sled that pushed him back out?
posted by five fresh fish at 4:58 PM on February 15, 2010


Wasn't it the sled that pushed him back out?

No. He came in high out of the turn, started falling out of his sled, and bounced off the chute and up and over the wall. Sled didn't have anything to do with him going over the wall

Here's the NYTimes graphic, which contains the pictures but not the video.
posted by dw at 6:03 PM on February 15, 2010


Athlete had filed warnings about luge track

An Olympic luge athlete injured in a crash at the Whistler Sliding Centre in November warned Canadian officials about safety hazards at the track months before a competitor was killed last week at the Vancouver Games in an accident on the same course.

Werner Hoeger, who competed in the Turin and Salt Lake Games for Venezuela, said he lost consciousness and sustained a concussion during a botched training run on Nov. 13 after his sled caromed off an opening in the wall near the women's start ramp.

His injury most likely prevented him from attempting to qualify for the Olympics, he said. In a volley of letters and e-mail messages sent to Canadian and international luge officials since his crash, Hoeger warned that the track was unsafe and raised the same issues — including a lack of access to practice runs — now being debated after Nodar Kumaritashvili of the Republic of Georgia died on Friday.

posted by philip-random at 1:52 PM on February 18, 2010


Oh, good find, philip-random...did you read these parts?

...Hoeger was experienced — he competed in the past two Winter Games — but he was not a medal contender. His highest World Cup ranking was 52nd.

At age 56, he was trying to become the oldest competitor in these Games. Kumaritashvili was young and inexperienced
...

...His training was stalled in the fall of 2008, when he injured an ankle while training at the Lake Placid course. He did not recuperate from the injury in enough time to participate in international training at the Whistler Sliding Centre....
posted by Kirk Grim at 8:54 PM on February 18, 2010


I read the whole thing. Fact is, the track was too dangerous for SOME of the athletes that the International Luge Federation had allowed to compete on it. Blaming Kumaritashvili's mistake (lack of skill) for his death and then changing the course to make it safer is nothing if not absurd.

Bottom line, my take is line with that of Formula 1 motor racing's foremost champions of safety.

"Instead of seeking to blame an accident on driver error, they should be seeking to minimize the probability than an error will lead to a tragedy,"

And so on. Kumaritashvili is dead and nothing will bring him back. What can be done is to make the sport safer. True, there will always be some risk of death in a sport that involves speeds of 90+ mph, but as Jackie Stewart comments in the linked article:

"Clearly it was almost impossible for the luger to miss hitting one of the metal girders on the edge of the racing line because of the angle at which he came off," said the Scot. "Had it been motor sport, there would have been a debris fence to stop a sled or a rider from coming into contact with those sort of structures,"
posted by philip-random at 10:25 AM on February 19, 2010


US bobsledder: Whistler track 'stupid fast'
Calling the Olympic sliding track "stupid fast," American women's bobsledder Shauna Rohbock said the venue where a luger was killed last week could generate speeds that are too dangerous for racing.

"It's just so fast," Rohbock said Friday night, later adding, "I think they went a little overboard on this track."
posted by mazola at 7:54 AM on February 20, 2010


Fear prompts bobsledders to quit Olympics.
posted by mazola at 12:16 PM on February 25, 2010


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