Saturday, February 13, 2010
The Olympic juggernaut rolls on in Vancouver – a $6bn (£4bn) celebration of sporting excellence and Canadian pride that has been seven years in the planning and waits for no man, not even one who lost his life in pursuit of what organisers called “his Olympic dream”, but which others suggested was a tragedy waiting to happen.
The glittering opening ceremony was dedicated to the memory of the 21-year-old Georgian athlete, Nodar Kumaritashvili, who was killed after losing control of his luge in practice on the final turn of the Whistler sliding track.
The crowd rose as the Georgian team, their national flag draped in black, made its entrance into the arena. “May you carry his Olympic dream on your shoulders and compete with his spirit in your heart,” John Furlong, the head of the Vancouver games organising committee (Vanoc), told the athletes after they had taken their seats.
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Stirring words, but as Furlong tried to frame Kumaritashvili’s death in a way that appealed to the sentimental instincts of the global audience, a more prosaic expression of the Olympic dream was taking place on the hill, where organisers issued a statement announcing the men’s luge event, in which the Georgian was due to compete, would go ahead as scheduled at 5pm local time.
“The technical officials of the FIL [International Luge Federation] were able to retrace the path of the athlete and concluded there was no indication that the accident was caused by deficiencies in the track,” said the statement, before adding that changes would be made to the track at the spot where Kumaritashvili began to lose control of his luge.
It will draw attention to complaints from other competitors about a track that has stretched the boundaries of safety in what is an already dangerous sport. “We are not crash-test dummies,” an Australian competitor said on Thursday.
This article was posted: Saturday, February 13, 2010 at 3:00 pm