Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Games Must Go On Despite a Death

The Games Must Go On Despite a Death

By Evan Weiner

February 13, 2010

(New York, N. Y. ) -- And so the Games must go on, and the luge event will go on at the Vancouver Winter Olympics even though one of the Olympics’ own, Georgia luge competitor Nodar Kumaritashvili lost his life in a practice run on the luge track. The Games must go on and Olympics (the Vancouver organizers) officials and the International Luge Federation have already washed their hands of the accident blaming Kumaritashvili not the track for the 21-year-old Georgians death.

You see according to the organizers, poor Kumaritashvili just messed up coming out of Curve 15 and going into Curve 16 on the track. The unfortunate luge participant ended up flying over a wall and then crashing into a steel beam which killed him.

The Games must go on and there was a gala opening ceremony which costs tens of millions of loonies that took place just hours after Kumaritashvili’s death.

The Games must go on. The International Olympics Committee President Jacques Rogge made his decree and that he be part of his legacy. Someone needs to already say no more to Rogge and his associates but no one has stepped up yet.

The Games must go on.

Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper was at the Vancouver Opening Ceremony and should be ordering some Canadian agency to look into what exactly happened and whether the luge track is safe. Harper, who twice shut down the Canadian Parliament in 2009 for political advantage, could easily tell the International Olympic Committee, the Games need to stop, at least the luge event, until a thorough investigation takes place in the events surrounding the death of the Georgia athlete.

Eventually there will be a legitimate investigation when the lawsuits start to fly and there will be lawsuits and there will be other athletes who will under oath testify about the track. There will also be engineers and others who will eventually have to talk about the design and safety of the course.

The Harper government, the British Columbia government and Vancouver’s government should be more active in the investigation and shut down the track. They should not be enablers for Rogge and his international gang. The Games can go on without the luge event even though there would be an outcry that luge participants have trained their entire lives for the event and it would be unfair for them to miss out at their chance for Olympic gold.

The death of the Georgia athlete will be the legacy of the Vancouver Games, Olympic officials always talk of legacy and a willing media will play the game and be Olympic stenographers. How can the media play a different role? Back in the late 1990s, New York’s four major newspapers kicked in money to support a New York City Olympic bid. NBC News in the United States is a willing partner of the International Olympic Committee as the parent division, General Electric led by CEO Jeffrey Immelt, signed a $2.2 billion (US) with the IOC for the United States video rights to the Vancouver Games and the 2012 London Summer Games back in 2003.

Richard Sandomir in Saturday’s edition of the New York Times wrote a laudatory column explaining how NBC had to work the death into the Olympic narrative. Imagine that a television news division having the flexibility to cover a news event at fantasyland or the corporate bazaar known as the Olympics.

The Games must go on mantra came after the 1972 Munich Massacre when Israeli athletes were killed in a terrorist attack in the Olympic Village. The International Olympic Committee President Avery Brundage decided after a day of mourning, the Games must go on and they did. The International Olympic Committee has never looked back.

Brundage in 1971 said the 1936 Hitler Summer Games in Berlin were the finest in modern history.

The International Olympic Committee has a long history of running roughshod over politicians who do more than genuflect when they get a whiff of the possibility of the five ring circus that is coming to town. The financial wreckage of the Olympics remains on display in Sydney from the 2000 Summer Games and in Athens where Greece remains on the hook for billions of euros worth of debt from the 2004 Games. Greece is in deep financial trouble now and while it is inaccurate to blame the 2004 Games for all of the country’s financial woes, the 2004 Summer Games debt is on the books and has added to Greece’s fiscal problems. Vancouver will be a money loser. NBC could lose $200 million on the Games, the local Olympic organizers will be leaning on the government, i. e. taxpayers, to bail them out to pay off the debt which is all the more reason for Harper to get involved in a thorough investigation of the accident at the track and see if there are flaws in the design that led to the death of Kurmaritashvili.

It is time that someone stands up to the IOC but apparently Harper won’t be that person. The Canadian Parliament goes back to work after the Vancouver closing ceremonies. There are much more pressing problems than the death of an Olympic athlete for MPs in Ottawa, yet there needs to be an investigation since millions of Canadians whether they like it or not are stakeholders in the Canadian-IOC partnerships that might cost them billions of loonies to pay off the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics debt.

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