The 2010 Winter Olympic Games are well underway, and even before any of the competing nations walked out into the opening ceremonies, a tragedy overshadowed the event.
On the last day of practice runs, Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili lost control of his luge and died in a crash. While spectators greeted the introduction of Georgia at the opening ceremony with a standing ovation, it seems not enough has been said about the accident and the decisions that led to tragedy.
Olympic officials have taken a number of steps to help provide an illusion of safety to the track, but have failed entirely to address the sacrifice which Kumaritashvili gave in the name of an international athletic competition at the most grand scale.
The initial response from the International Olympic Committee was nothing short of insulting. Delivered only hours after the Georgian's fatal accident, their response blamed him for the mishap and addressed nothing about the potential danger of the track itself. Later, the IOC took the proper action and ordered an investigation into the course, which resulted in a few measures taken to assure other competitors of its safety.
While that is all well and good, there has been a significant and horrifying lack of compassion for Kumaritashvili from Olympic officials. The games are carrying on as normal, almost as if nothing happened to blacken the atmosphere surrounding the games.
The IOC has, however, called for a lowering of the Olympic and Canadian flags to half-mast along with a one minute moment of silence to allow for proper reflection. That decision was an admirable one. As the games continue, however, the cause of Kumaritashvili's death will need to be investigated further and addressed by the IOC.
The truth behind the accident is a Canadian program dubbed "Own the Podium," where Canadian athletes were awarded the opportunity to take many more practice runs than competitors of other nationalities. This was not entirely an unheard-of practice during Olympic games, where the host country often employs various measures in order to bolster its own athletes' chances of winning medals.
It seems, however, that Own the Podium may have contributed in no small way to the death of Kumaritashvili. While Kumaritashvili was only offered 15 chances to practice the luge course from the men's start, Canadian athletes were given upwards of 250 practice runs. Allowing such an incredible gap in practice runs is a policy which, in light of this tragedy, should absolutely be re-evaluated by the IOC. Additionally, Olympic officials apparently largely dismissed safety concerns that were expressed regarding the luge track. The IOC's decision-making bureaucratic process must, without question, be examined for its safety implications.
Only when these steps are taken will the Olympic Games and the international community truly be able to move on from the tragedy that placed a blight on the 2010 Vancouver Games before they could even begin.