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Friday, February 12, 2010

Olympic Insanity

  The Winter Olympics are here and people from places near and far are here to challenge some of the most notorious venues on the planet . The half-pipe is higher than anywhere else , the moguls are crazier , the ice for speed-skating is engineered for a record speed. Winter IS bigger in Canada than anywhere else and we really want the biggest and baddest in great white fun. 
  And today , the most dangerous sled course in the world claimed a kid's life . 

   Officials and athletes from all over have expressed serious concerns over the Whistler Sliding Centre's design since its inception .  It is the longest course with the most turns on the planet , and has a shocking 152 metre drop . It is unlike anything man had previously thought of. All of the world speed records of late have been set there and some folks want to see new extremes regardless of whether or not they violate common sense. 

  Luge is an athletic event to a degree , but mainly an exercise in physics. Almost every person who reaches 144km/h will be fired off of his or her sled. Nodar Kumaritashvili was travelling at 144.3 km/h when the predictable happened - he was fired in the opposite direction of his sled into a huge steel beam (ANOTHER excellent idea) and didn't have a prayer . He was only one of an enormous number of people who crashed during training runs . One of the better female lugers was hospitalized yesterday.  The overwhelming men's favourite crashed during his test run at the demon that competitors call the Elevator Shaft. .Even the indivudual turns are so extreme that they have ominous names related to famous racers who have crashed or the percentage of people who can make it through a turn without wiping out. 

But someone's going to break a record if they survive. It is thought that the men's course could top out at somewhere between 155 and 158 kph and the ladies could hit 150 . The IOC does not recognize such records , but the FIL does for now. The track for the NEXT Olympics will be speed-limited , which is a nice thought. Winning at sled involves managing the course , not whether or not the course itself is slightly slower. 

  But for these games , we have this demon. Canucks have a reputation for being decent people , but I think of no worse statement of sportsmanship than designing a course that few can complete. It is engineered to cause such extremes of speed and force that people have dramatically more crashes. And those "entertaining" wipeouts can kill people . Think of it as NASCAR without a rollcage and where the "body" is YOUR body. 
 This thing is a dealth trap. Not just the track , but the litany of enormous , unpadded steel I-Beams that surround the track. Who came up with that bright idea? It is a fair possibility that if the kid hadn't hit a huge chunk of metal , he might not have had all of his inerds simultaneously squashed. I hope no other parents have to see their kids come home in boxes because of this . Yesterday , athletes were complaining about how dangerous it was , some predicting fatalities. Today , their fears became reality. 
  I understand clearly that there are risks related to every sport - a high-school buddy took his last breath on Whistler's snowboard slalom - but this is ridiculous and the antithesis to what sport is about. It's injury and death by design and patently unfair. 


  1. The thing about Nascar is..they have safe walls, restraints,and numerous other safety precautions.Albiet, they got more strict after the deaths of Dale Earnhart & Adam Petty. What these people are going up against in Vancouver is a different animal, I can only hope 1 tragic death is all we will see.

  2. I wondered the same: why no safety precautions? Tragic.


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