An Aside: Olympic Luger’s Death

While I have all intentions of keeping this blog focused on my life in vet school and helping other students get into vet school, certain events affect all of our lives regardless of whether we are involved, and this is no exception. Yesterday, on the opening day of the Olympic games, the world mourned (and is still mourning) the death of a young Georgian (the country, not the state) luger who died after a horrific accident during a practice run.

If you have seen pictures or video, you know how tragic this accident is and for those of you who haven’t, the video can be seen here. I will warn you that although there is no blood or gore, the footage is graphic and shows the entire crash. Please use your own discretion and do not watch the video if you have any doubt about whether you want to or will be able to handle seeing it.

With that being said, I was particularly upset by the accident as, at least in my opinion, it could have been avoided. Surely not all accidents are avoidable, and the many that take place in skiing are almost impossible to actively prevent, however in this particular situation I believe there are a few things that could have been done to minimize danger to participants in the sport.

To begin with, this newly built luge track is touted as being the fastest track in the world. While that might be a nice title to hold, the builders must realize that that title comes with an inherent risk to lugers’ safety. A faster track means no where to practice that is comparable. Some sports don’t have these issues: with skiing you can ski virtually anywhere to practice; however, if someone decided to build a mountain (as funny as that sounds) that would have the fastest downhill course in the world, do you think that the risks of death or injury would go up? I bet they would. Faster courses = faster speeds = greater chance of losing control. It’s as simple as that.

Secondly, I would like to know why no one thought to put padding around the pillars that surround the track — the pillars that ultimately caused the death of this young luger yesterday. In skiing – virtually every obstacle is padded – especially the chairlift poles. Could you imagine how many injuries or deaths there would be if they didn’t pad them? So why not pad the pillars next to the luge track? Did they think that there was no chance of lugers hitting them should they crash? I know that cameras need to have a good viewing angle to broadcast the events, but please, please, please, let us not compromise safety. Built up the walls, pad the pillars and let’s not put any more of the world’s finest athletes at unnecessary risk.

Speaking of the other athletes. Who would want to continue to practice or compete after such an accident? They must ask themselves whether or not something similar could happen to them, and if they don’t think it’s possible, they are seriously deluded. If I were in their shoes, I would be asking myself whether an Olympic medal was worth risking my life.

I can only hope that there are no more tragedies during the 2010 (or any year for that matter) Olympic games. And in the future, let us be more focused on keeping our athletes athletes safe than breaking records.