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Horrific crash in luge


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The coaches apparently recommended going ahead whit the event today, the FIL, IOC and RCMP apparently accepted the recommendation. The wall will be raised where the crash occurred, and the turn will be changed to make the finish easier to navigate. Lets hope it will be enough, but I have to say I'm not sure I'm be able to watch Luge tonight...

Also just heard a interview from the FIBT (Bobsled/Skeleton) president on TV, and he claimed that the Whistler track is not the most dangerous in the world.

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More news:

BERLIN--The German designer of the luge track where a young Olympic athlete from the Republic of Georgia was killed Friday said that it was "the tragic result of an unpredictable chain of events" and that he doesn't consider the steel posts that the luger struck to be a safety hazard.

Still, Udo Gurgel, a 71-year-old who has been designing world-class ice courses for 40 years, said in an interview that it is possible to alter the course to make it safer for the Olympic competition.

"If the guard planks had been set 20 centimeters (8 inches) higher, he would have stayed safely in the course," Mr. Gurgel said, referring to Georgian athlete, Nodar Kumaritaschwili.

Mr. Kumaritaschwili, died when he flew out of the sled run at high speed near the end of the course at the Whistler Sliding Centre in Whistler, British Columbia.

Mr. Gurgel said that the course design allows installation of guard rails that should ensure safety along the course. The safest way to build the course would be a tunnel, Mr. Gurgel said, but that would cut visibility for spectators.

"If the guardrail was just 20 centimeters higher," the death would have been prevented, he said.

Late Friday after the opening ceremonies of the Games, Olympic organizers in Vancouver announced that the luge competition would begin Saturday as scheduled despite the accident.

Officials of the International Luge Federation spent Friday evening investigating the crash. Afterward, they concluded that the crash was caused by Mr. Kumaritashvili's inability to control the sled during the final two turns rather than a fault in the design of the track.

However, the officials said they would "reopen the track following a raising of the walls at the exit of curve 16 and a change in the ice profile. This was done as a preventative measure, in order to avoid that such an extremely exceptional accident could occur again."

By raising the walls, the federation hopes to prevent another luger from crashing into the steel posts that killed the Georgian on impact.

Mr. Gurgel said he planned the course in 2004, calculating expected speeds of up to 150 kilometers per hour (93 miles per hour) at the last measurement point before the site of the accident.

The safety features were designed to ensure an additional margin of safety, allowing speeds of up to 160 km/h at this point, Mr. Gurgel said.

Mr. Gurgel's design was approved jointly by the two world-wide sport federations and the operator of the site.

"The course was designed to be faster and more technical challenging than previous Olympic courses," Mr. Gurgal said."The trend is to build ever faster sled runs," Mr. Gurgel said.

Friday's accident could lead event organizers to "steer a different course" in the design of future sled runs, Mr. Gurgel said.

Mr. Gurgel said the luge speeds are comparable or faster than the speed achieved by the four-man bobsled teams. At this point in the course, however, the bobsleds are slightly faster than the luge because the bobsled has a longer run, Mr. Gugel said.

(Source: Wall Street Journal)

So we have the architect saying that guard rails would have prevented the accident's fatal consquences, and the design of the track was signed off by the two federations (i.e. International Luge Federation and FIBT) and the Whistler Track operators (who are they? VANOC or a private/public concern). Therefore the lack of guard rails surely resides with these official bodies and therefore Kumaritaschwili died indirectly because of an omission in the safety regime of the track.

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Maybe not dishonesty...disingenuous scapegoating, avoidance of culpability, bureaucratic ineptitude leading to death through negligence, and finally shirking of responsibility yes.

Sad to say we've seen this happen before (Munich 72 ring any bells?).

The last fatal "non-fluke" (fluke being things like having two Bobsled on course at the same time) accident in a sliding sport was also ruled an accident by police.

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I heard that people, who are used to luge/bobsleigh/skeleton, knew that this run is very fast and therewith there were changes before the games, but they never thought that on this place something could happen like this...

Furthermore we should be aware that many sports are dangerous (e.g. downhill) - even athletics can be dangerous when you are hit by a javelin or by a shot...

This was an accident, what is really sad - every accident is sad...

Edited by Citius Altius Fortius
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Fox - they said they are going to make the track slower by altering the ice. Can they soften the ice to make it slower or what do they have to do?

That would be the best thing to do (that and raising a wall on the accident site). Also, i think that VANOC is trying to avoid some responsability using excuses <_< ..but i agree, accidents can happen anytime, anywhere.

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The AP says the men will being at the woman's start, preventing them from achieving the high speeds.

Thats pretty much the only sensible way to reduce speed. Wonder if the women and doubles will start from the junior start house...

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First training run started this morning, first luger down survived. His top speed was just under 140km/h, so about 15k less that the top speed that was achieved there.

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Don't know if it's been mentioned, but really, padding on those poles would have done little. The G-forces the human body experiences when it decelerates from 90 MPH to 0 MPH in a second are tremendous. Padding would have done little in reducing those forces. And sorry for the following visuals, but I imagine the force of flying off and hitting the ledge of the track, as the young athlete did yesterday, was quite strong as well.

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So, what does an Olympic tragedy have to do with the Daytona 500? NASCAR's Great American race and the Daytona International Speedway have also seen their share of tragedy.

On the last lap of the Daytona 500 in February 2001, Dale Earnhardt, Sr. crashed and lost his life. Earnhardt, Sr. died instantly of head injuries sustained in the crash.

Just as the head of the International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge had to announce the death of one of their own athletes, NASCAR President Mike Helton had to make this announcement:

"This is undoubtedly one of the toughest announcements I have ever personally had to make," Helton said. "We've lost Dale Earnhardt.

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Don't know if it's been mentioned, but really, padding on those poles would have done little. The G-forces the human body experiences when it decelerates from 90 MPH to 0 MPH in a second are tremendous. Padding would have done little in reducing those forces. And sorry for the following visuals, but I imagine the force of flying off and hitting the ledge of the track, as the young athlete did yesterday, was quite strong as well.

Plexiglass would have helped, no? There could have been some shield from those support that could have greatly reduced his injuries.

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The AP says the men will being at the woman's start, preventing them from achieving the high speeds.

There must have been two more training runs today. German media reported that the German athletes dominated these two runs. Felix Loch, the current World Champion and son of the German coach, was pleased with his performance. But Zöggeler (THE Gold favorite) and Demtschenko dont like the Womens start. It is not as steep as the Mens start and good starters have an advantage now. Zöggeler and Demtschenko arent good starters anymore.

Maybe I am ridiculous, but why dont they bring the sliding events to a save track, to Calgary?

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There must have been two more training runs today. German media reported that the German athletes dominated these two runs. Felix Loch, the current World Champion and son of the German coach, was pleased with his performance. But Zöggeler (THE Gold favorite) and Demtschenko dont like the Womens start. It is not as steep as the Mens start and good starters have an advantage now. Zöggeler and Demtschenko arent good starters anymore.

Maybe I am ridiculous, but why dont they bring the sliding events to a save track, to Calgary?

I don't think they could even attempt to use an alternate track, so all are stuck with Whistler. And of course the ILF have now not just had a role in the faulty design of a track which was partially responsible for a slider's death, their incompetence will lead to athletes who should have gold medal hopes being handicapped.

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I don't think they could even attempt to use an alternate track, so all are stuck with Whistler. And of course the ILF have now not just had a role in the faulty design of a track which was partially responsible for a slider's death, their incompetence will lead to athletes who should have gold medal hopes being handicapped.

The jury has just announced that the women's and doubles events will be started down in the Junior start instead of the women's start.

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How can this all be happening now! It's amazing that the course is being labeled unusable now. I'm sure athletes are furious.

Ya, some athletes now feel that the track is too easy. It basically went from a Turino-like track to a Calgray/Igls-like track.

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That would be the best thing to do (that and raising a wall on the accident site). Also, i think that VANOC is trying to avoid some responsability using excuses <_< ..but i agree, accidents can happen anytime, anywhere.

In most of these sports, there are risks and athletes know that...I mean, come on:

- downhill skiers flying on snow at 90/km hr

- ski jumpers...jumping off man-made cliffs

- snowboarders doing back flips 30-feet in the air in ice tubes

- luge/skeleton...wearing spandex in a tube at god knows how fast

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In most of these sports, there are risks and athletes know that...I mean, come on:

- downhill skiers flying on snow at 90/km hr

- ski jumpers...jumping off man-made cliffs

- snowboarders doing back flips 30-feet in the air in ice tubes

- luge/skeleton...wearing spandex in a tube at god knows how fast

But there's a difference between risk that is mitigated by appropriate safety precautions and risk that is maximised because of organisational failures. Taking the downhillers as an example, the last deaths involved objects being hits either close to or on the course. By removing the chance for snow ploughs or trees to be placed on or near the course the sport becomes safer, but doesn't lose the risk inherent in a high speed course. Just imagine what would have happened if Herman 'The Herminator' Meier had come off the track in Nagano and a tree was as relatively close as the metal stanchions were at Whistler's luge course.

The luge federation need to have a serious shake up as a result of this tragedy, which is now turning into a farce.

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Here's the thing - there are two different catagories we're talking about here, acceptable risk and unnecessary risk.

Acceptable risk is a part of sport. In the case we're speaking of, anyone who gets on a luge knows that they're going to end up going about 80 to 85 MPH by the end. They know they could break a leg, a foot, an arm, etc. It's a part of the sport, just like injury is a possibility for any sport.

Unnecessary risk is what was being presented yesterday at the Whistler track. We'd had speeds from 90 to 95 MPH, about ten times faster than the average luge track. Over 30 crashes, including all four Americans and the two time defending gold medalist and nearly to a one, they all commented on how extreme the track was. To say nothing of having exposed metal posts right smack on the edge of the track.

My point is this - I accept that bad things can happen in sport. People will get hurt pushing boundaries in pursuit of medals. But, to be frank, somewhere along the way, a line was crossed and we were getting warning signs that something bad could happen, but I doubt in anyone's worst nightmares was it ever considered someone could die. Looking back, I wish to God the organizing committee or the course designers had.

I'm glad there are fixes in place, but very obviously, they are stop gaps. Has the quality of the competition been affected? Surely, but I'd rather have live people complaining about the start than to see a repeat of what happened yesterday. Also glad the Games go on, but really hope Sochi's track designers learn a lesson from this and make sure the track is challenging, but acceptable risk rather than push boundaries into the unnecessary and ultimately tragic.

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Here's the thing - there are two different catagories we're talking about here, acceptable risk and unnecessary risk.

Acceptable risk is a part of sport. In the case we're speaking of, anyone who gets on a luge knows that they're going to end up going about 80 to 85 MPH by the end. They know they could break a leg, a foot, an arm, etc. It's a part of the sport, just like injury is a possibility for any sport.

Unnecessary risk is what was being presented yesterday at the Whistler track. We'd had speeds from 90 to 95 MPH, about ten times faster than the average luge track. Over 30 crashes, including all four Americans and the two time defending gold medalist and nearly to a one, they all commented on how extreme the track was. To say nothing of having exposed metal posts right smack on the edge of the track.

My point is this - I accept that bad things can happen in sport. People will get hurt pushing boundaries in pursuit of medals. But, to be frank, somewhere along the way, a line was crossed and we were getting warning signs that something bad could happen, but I doubt in anyone's worst nightmares was it ever considered someone could die. Looking back, I wish to God the organizing committee or the course designers had.

I'm glad there are fixes in place, but very obviously, they are stop gaps. Has the quality of the competition been affected? Surely, but I'd rather have live people complaining about the start than to see a repeat of what happened yesterday. Also glad the Games go on, but really hope Sochi's track designers learn a lesson from this and make sure the track is challenging, but acceptable risk rather than push boundaries into the unnecessary and ultimately tragic.

Exactly mattperiolat...but perhaps you meant 10 or so mph more than average track speed...I'm not sure how much danger there would be heading down the Cresta Run at St Moritz if you were doing 9 mph :P

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I think its an error in the way the track is build that killed him. His crashed was human error, and 100% his fault, but the fact that its at all possible to fly off the track is just unacceptable. Those kind of tracks should be build so that its humanly impossible to fly of them. If only the wall would have been a meter taller, the deceleration would have been much less intense. He still would have been injured, but dead? Probably not.

On a side-note, seeing a Bobsled, Skeleton or Luge fly off a track have been something I have dreaded since I heard of Yvonne Cernota's deadly accident in Konigssee back in 2004 (she also flew off the track, but that time in a Bobsled. Somehow, her brakeman survived).

In a weird twist, Konigssee is actually part of Munich's bid, and was also part of Salzburg's. We actually could have had two Olympics in a row on deadly tracks :o, altough I do believe that they have done changes to the Konigssee track in the wake of the tragedy.

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