February 12, 2010
The IOC should cancel all luge events at the 2010 Winter Olympics, but not solely because Nodar Kumaritashvili of the nation of Georgia suffered a fatal injury during a practice run at the Whistler Sliding Centre on Friday. The track is unsafe, and continuing to send athletes hurtling down the treacherous run is irresponsible.
Luge is a dangerous sport, and those who participate know the risks involved. It's like racecar driving and football in that respect. There are certain hazards involved, and we shouldn't question the value and purpose of these sports because of one tragic accident.
If Kumaritashvili's crash was an isolated incident, calls to cancel the luge events at the Vancouver Games would be an overreaction. Sometimes flukes happen. A bobsledder died 44 years ago near Lake Placid, N.Y., on what was then known as the fastest track in the world.
The problem is, Kumaritashvili's crash wasn't a fluke occurrence. Many have been concerned about the lightning-fast track in Whistler before today's tragic incident. When the run opened last year, a luger hit 95.65 mph, a full 6 mph faster than the previous world record. The speed caused the president of the international luge federation to say, "it makes me worry".
On Thursday night Australian luger Hannah Campbell-Pegg nearly lost control of her sled. Afterward she told reporters:
"I think they are pushing it a little too much. 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."
By putting more sledders on the run at Whistler, the IOC is putting those lives in danger. Either slow down the track, move the event to another location (which would be a logistical nightmare) or cancel luge entirely. One tragedy is enough.