Canada, IOC lose Games’ spirit before, after crash

After months of anticipation, the 2010 Winter Olympics officially got underway Friday night. 

But for seven athletes from the Republic of Georgia, the opening ceremonies were a sobering reminder of a fallen teammate whose life ended mere hours before the festivities began. 

Earlier that day, 21-year-old Nodar Kumaritashvili lined up at the top of the Whistler Sliding Track to make one final practice run on his luge before the start of the games. 

He never made it to the bottom, crashing coming out of a fast turn and flying off the track into a steel support beam. 

Kumaritashvili was transported to a hospital where he died after doctors failed to revive him. 

“This is a very sad day; the (International Olympic Committee) is in deep mourning,” IOC President Jacques Rogge said at a press conference addressing the incident. “Here you have a young athlete who lost his life in pursuing his passion.” 

Although most would view the tragedy as something to look into immediately, Rogge apparently had a different take. 

“This is a time for sorrow; it’s not the time to look for reasons. That will come in due time.” 

Yes, you just read that right — the president of the IOC told a room full of reporters to not worry about who or what was at fault in the death of an Olympic athlete because the chance to examine the accident would come “in due time.” 

Jacques must not have realized getting to the bottom of what went wrong as soon as possible might be a good idea, given the luge competitions started less than 24 hours after his press conference concluded. 

Howard Bryant of reported Friday night that numerous athletes had expressed uneasiness about the safety of the track before the fatal crash. 

“A major concern for bobsledders, lugers and skeleton riders beyond their competition has been the formidable reputation of the Whistler track, generally considered the fastest sliding track in the world,” Bryant wrote. “Bobsledder Steven Holcomb, driver of USA I, nicknamed the course’s 13th curve the ‘50-50’ curve because of the odds of a crash.” 

Bryant also revealed that the Canadian team had prevented other teams from using the track to practice on, robbing them of any chance to get accustomed to its speed and danger before the Olympics. 

While there is plenty of blame to go around in this case, from the always-inept IOC to the geniuses responsible for designing the world’s most dangerous sliding track, the Canadians are clearly more to blame for Kumaritashvili’s death than anyone else. 

The Olympics are indeed a competition, but are more importantly an opportunity to promote sportsmanship and goodwill between nations. 

These are such core tenets of the games that Olympic Hymn instructs athletes to “let fraternity and fellowship surround the soul of every nation.” 

In limiting other teams’ access to the sliding track, the Canadians not only showed what little class they have, but their actions may have directly led to an athlete’s death. 

It would only be fitting for any of the Canadian bobsled, luge or skeleton teams that win gold to have their medals presented to them by Kumaritashvili’s teammates. 

I guess when your country’s biggest cultural exports are K.D. Lang and Molson Canadian, winning really is everything.

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