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What part of 'slow it down' doesn't the IOC get?

34 Comments
By Jim Litke

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34 Comments
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Well these folks know luge is dangerous and still still do it. If they don't like the course, they can refuse to run it. I am saddened by the death and whatnot but it is well known to be a dangerous sport.

That being said, this guy went doing what he loved. Tragic yes but it is sort of conforting to think he loved the sport and died while doing it.

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tmarie wrote- Well these folks know luge is dangerous and still still do it. If they don't like the course, they can refuse to run it.

They trained for the day for four years. They may get only one crack at this. That makes it a rather difficult choice. But if serious changes are not made, given that one man is already dead, they may do just that.

The article says a speed of 10 kph faster than ever recorded in the sport was recorded on that track. Then a man dies. I think the writer is correct. The answer is to slow the course down. Everyone will remain on even footing. The IOC should not make the lugers choose between taking a risk and throwing away the last four years.

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Athletes will always go for top performance -it is up to the IOC to make the courses as safe as possible.

Instead of the IOC taking control of the games it should be the sports themselves with the IOC bringing the whole event together.

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At 89 mph, anyone could come out of a turn late and not compensate for it in time. How could they call it “such an extremely exceptional accident”? Considering the races haven't even started and this has already happened, it doesn't seem so exceptional...

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While the speed of the track is not in question, I have to wonder if the track could be left alone, while some kind of restraint system is installed? They already have the catch nets that are used on the downhill course; couldn't these be deployed around the track to prevent sliders from flying into adjacent poles? (Why are there poles next to the track?)

It would also be easy enough to warm up the track to soften the ice. That would slow things down considerably.

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Speed was not the problem with the death of Nodar Kumaritashvili- it was a lack of safety barriers ! It is inexusable to have the bottom of the course, coming off a turn, to be open aired like that- and then to have those massive pillars within feet is just a tragedy waiting to happen. The course should have been designed with curbed plexi glass coming out of all the turns to keep the racers "inside" the course. Sad turn of events- so sad !

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"and then to have those massive pillars within feet is just a tragedy waiting to happen. The course should have been designed with curbed Plexiglas coming out of all the turns to keep the racers "inside" the course. Sad turn of events- so sad !" - Branded

Branded, you hit the nail on the head! Why would anyone put pillars up knowing that people might just fly off the course. It always takes a major accident (and usually someones life) before these people design it right (although common sense should have dictated here!).

Our hearts go out to this athlete's family and friends who spent the last year cheering him on during his practicing for this event.

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Branded... agreed... Plexiglass could have prevented it.

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Human error was the reasons and now that they've slowed the track down, the lugers are complaining it is too slow. Honestly, they just can't win can they?

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A whole lot of things could have prevented it, and I see no reason not to take a multifaceted approach to making sure it does not happen again. Cushion those poles, install the plexiglass and safety nets, and do something to slow the course down.

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It is inexusable to have the bottom of the course, coming off a turn, to be open aired like that- and then to have those massive pillars within feet is just a tragedy waiting to happen

reps. They could easily have made it safer, completely free from things to crash into and still put in some kind of closed circuit cameras for the viewers. While I understand that guys attempt to save face by saying "human error," this could easily have been prevented with a better design.

I suspect history will show the course designers as responsible for this accident. At least the poor dude was killed so fast that he likely had no idea what happened. One minute he was in the middle of fulfilling what was likely a life long dream, and next thing he knows he's waiting in line at the pearly gates.

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To what extent is the IOC actually responsible here? Granted, they have a sort of "buck stops here" position, but in reality the design, construction, certification and operation of the venue is the responsibility of VanOC.

If anyone is to blame for the venue, and if anyone is to blame for placing the image of the games over the lives and well-being of the athletes, it's them.

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and do something to slow the course down.

Did you not read my comment? They HAVE slowed it down and now the lugers are complaining it is too slow!

I agree more safety is needed but human error was the reason here. I don't know if slamming into plexiglass would have been any different than slamming into the pole.

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tmarie wrote- Did you not read my comment? They HAVE slowed it down and now the lugers are complaining it is too slow!

I humbly apologize for not hitting refresh in the four minute difference between our posts. How can I ever make it up to you? But still, slowing the course down is part of the multifaceted approach I suggest, and if I left it out it would not convey my meaning.

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What's amazing about all of this is that those who don't have to race on it are commending the speed on this new course. Those who do have to race on it are complaining about it being too fast. The thing is that going 10-20 kph faster won't look faster on television. I seriously doubt viewers get more of a thrill from watching lugers go a bit faster.

In any case, this tragedy seems to have had a big affect on everyone. Kumaritashvili's teammate, Levan Gureshidze has withdrawn from the race saying he "couldn't go on". Other lugers have confessed being affected by this tragedy as well. Some have held back their own speeds and wood placed where the accident happened serves as a chilling reminder.

Of course, after such a tragedy, the knee-jerk reaction ended up being shortening the track immensely, and thus slowing it down greatly, so lugers have been duly noting that there is a different feel and mood concerning this changed course.

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Mr. Litke,

Perhaps you are unaware that they have already slowed it down... Don't be so obsessed with your own opinion that you ignore the news.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/02/13/SPSQ1C1CRP.DTL

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Don't know why the mods deleted my comment...some of these events are not real sports in that the contestants have very little control over the outcome. It would be like seeing who could hold our breath the longest and then making it an olympic event. Just do away with the sledding events. They depend more on equipment than anything else.

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haoushokuhaki, read the comments. They HAVE slowed it down and those who HAVE to race on it are now complaining that it is too slow. Wow! Do peple even bother to read the comments on here or just post wherever their opinion is?

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haoushokuhaki, read the comments. They HAVE slowed it down

tmarie, I have read the comments. Please read my comments again too:

"Of course, after such a tragedy, the knee-jerk reaction ended up being shortening the track immensely, and thus slowing it down greatly,"

Notice that I mention them slowing it down.

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Oh, and tmarie, please read this article:

http://sports.yahoo.com/olympics/vancouver/luge/news;ylt=AglM8Ve7eZWOyJcW.iCrIsl9sbV?slug=ap-lug-lugetrack&prov=ap&type=lgns

Not one comment on it of riders complaining about the track being "too slow". I think it would be disrespectful to do so anyway. All I've been reading is how lugers are commenting on the fact that it is difficult to concentrate on being in a festive mood and racing their normal ways.

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The track follows the guidelined of the luge federation...no one is to blame . It was an accident which could happen at any other event at these Olympics. Well ... maybe not curling.

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One thing that was good was that the media in Japan didn't air the full clip of the accident, nor did it show any of the gratuitous photos (as I heard other media outlets did). I felt spared some of the shock that I heard people I know back home was witness to.

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I couldn't understand why they had the metal poles next to the track, couldn't they see a problem? Plexglass would have stopped it.

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Don't people read each other's posts any more? ...gogogo, see posts # 5,6,7 and 8.

BTW I wonder if Olympic athletes have to sign pre-competition agreements they will not sue in the case of an accident?

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To recap: it's true that the track is scary fast. It's true that failure to control the sled is what caused the man to leave the track. The really important point here is that the designers of the track failed to recognize the danger of having pillars so close to the track and doing nothing to prevent sliders from hitting them if they left the track. Cushioning the pillars would have had no effect in this case. The answer is to keep the sliders from leaving the track at all.

I think the best analogy is to look at auto racing. 50 years ago, racing was incredibly dangerous. Drivers could barely be bothered to wear seat belts. Over time, as hazards were identified and methods of reducing the danger were developed, deaths were reduced to injuries, injuries were reduced to simply being annoyed at destroying a car while the driver walked away. In addition to better protective gear for the drivers and better design of the cars, the tracks have been made safer. Where Grand Prix tracks were once bordered by nothing but trees, now there are armco and tire walls. Where NASCAR stock cars occasionally jumped the low guardrails and flipped into the adjacent parking lots, now there are high catch fences and SAFER barriers.

My point is that it often takes tragedy to instigate change in any dangerous high-speed sport. Hopefully the operators of all the sliding tracks around the world will look at this situation and find ways to improve the safety of their own facilities. Hopefully the IOC and the governing body for luge racing will demand it.

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Excellent points by JohnBecker. In auto racing today, while deaths can still occur due to the inherent danger of the sport, they now NEVER happen due to a disregard for safety (they attempt to reduce that danger to the minimum possible level), or faulty track design that doesn't recognize potentially dangerous spots and situations.

Why the IOC and those responsible for designing the track did not think in the same proactive way is a head-scratcher.

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@Johnbecker and GJDaileult:

Points well made. May I add that NASCAR initiated "restrictor plate" racing when the cars got too fast for the tracks and after Dale died at Daytona 3 years ago, they made the HANS restraints manditory. So as the sleds and competitors get faster, you have to adjust the tracks to match for safety sake. Too bad it always takes a tragety too point this out.

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On Thursday, after a wobbly training run, Australia’s Hannah Campbell-Pegg asked, “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.”

baby, if you dont like your job, get a real one.

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"... the media in Japan didn't air the full clip of the accident, ..."

Wait a minute. The JT quesion of the days says that the nation media DID show the whole thing. Did they? Or is JapanToday referring to a nation other than Japan?

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Did they? Or is JapanToday referring to a nation other than Japan?

taj:

Reports say that media outlets such as NBC (the National Broadcasting Corporation station airing the Olympics in the U.S.) and the Huffington Post have shown coverage of this incident over and over and over in gory detail. On NHK, they cut it off at the gruesome part.

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Holy smokes, on seeing the pictures I think the response to the incident has been rather muted. I'm no course designer but it seems obvious that someone could fly over the wall (what was it 2 feet, 3 feet at most!!), speeds at 90 mph!!

Who let that course go to use?? Somebody was seriously negligent in their duties!!

What do we have next? Sharpened blades all around the track? You know, to slow down the racers??

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Being a Vancouverite, I am ashamed at the way the VANOC and the OTP have been acting and what they have said. The track was so fast that the g-forces experienced by the dead Georgian luger were impossible to handle. He "flattened out" and became a travelling object incapable of controlling physically controlling his own body, let alone the luge. This is how fast the track was, as designed and claimed to be safe by the Olympic committee.

The alterations to the course, will make it safer at the cost of the length of the run and number of turns.

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It's even more surprising that officials knew about the dangers that the Whistler course presented. They've had numerous crashes before:

http://www.nbcolympics.com/wnbc/news/newsid=409285.html?aff=wnbc

According to this report, Whistler's Corner 13 was known to be especially dangerous. So dangerous in fact that even Canadian lugers had trouble with it in training runs, and they had more practice time to get adjusted to it than foreign athletes had.

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What about skydiving, Mr. Litke? Its a dangerous sport, but people do it. Should Skydivers "bring it down"? How about baseball? Batters and even coaches have been killed by errant pitches or foul hits, should baseball "tone it down"? What about American Football or Rugby? Shoudl these sprots be "regulated" as well, seeing how Rugby and American Fotball players regularly get injured (severely, sometimes) or killed? What abotu Golf, Mr. Litke? People have been injured by errant and stray golf balls....should golf "modify" its standards so that people will be safe?

I do not say this lightly, glossing over this Georgian Athlete's death. It is a tragedy, and one that threwe a pall over the Opening Ceremonies, and has thrown a pall over the games themselves. However, he knew the risks. He knew that the luge, wherever it is performed, is a fast, dangerous sport with high speeds and high risks. Ditto that for Dale Earnhardt before his last race; ditto that for Hank Gathers prior to his last game with Loyola Marymount; ditto that for Davey Allison before he hoppedi nto his helicopter. This list could go on and on.

The fact of the matter is, many fine and wonderful sports are of high risk. I should know, as I played American Football for ten years, and have driven a car for longer than that. Accidents happen, and often they are tragic. However, blaming this or that person for this or that thing that they had little control over, Mr. Litke, gets noone anywhere. It certainly will not make safety a priority any sooner...

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