Shameless luge officials blame the victim
WHISTLER, B.C. – The Federation Internationale de Luge (FIL) is acting like someone in a fender-bender. You know, admit nothing, shrug, and blame the other guy.
Apparently without a trace of shame, the world luge governing body, as well as the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee (VANOC), met the press Saturday morning to blame Nodar Kumaritashvili solely for his own death and to accept zero responsibility themselves for Friday’s fatal crash that killed the 21-year-old Georgian at the Whistler Sliding Centre.
Yes, it’s a fast track, but it’s not too fast and it’s not unsafe, luge officials stressed several times at a morning press conference, where they also said all scenarios, including cancelling the entire sliding competition at these Olympic Games, were discussed before they decided to go ahead as scheduled.
They’re trying to revise history as they go here, adamant that the WSC track is completely safe and that Kumaritashvili’s own driving error led to his death, despite a litany of complaints and cautions from the athletes themselves in the weeks and days leading to the Olympics. And even though Kumaritashvili’s death is the first luge fatality in 35 years, “there was nothing out of the ordinary that signalled there needed to be a change made,’’ according to FIL secretary-general Svein Romstad.
Yet they have shortened the men’s race, scheduled to begin later Saturday, to the women’s starting point and they will shorten the women’s start, perhaps down to the junior start point, in a bid to slow down the runaway speeds, which have clearly exceeded what the sliding organization thought would be achieved on the track. They also will raise the walls where the fatal crash occurred in a bid to – hold on for this one – “deal with the emotional component for athletes.’’
They are making all these changes even though the track is completely safe, or as VANOC vice-president for sport Tim Gayda put it, “we did everything in our power to make that a safe track.’’
Except for all the new stuff, apparently.
It sounds as if lawyers drummed into them that they should admit no responsibility whatsoever. German Josef Fendt, FIL president, when asked if legal action had been threatened, answered, “I don’t know.’’
Asked to identify which “emotional’’ components would be addressed by moving the starts down, Romstad of the United States, fighting back tears, said he he didn’t know specifically because “this is a component we have not dealt with before.’’
Played down, as well, were Canadian Olympic Committree boasts for the past several months that Canada was exploiting its “home-field advantage’’ by limiting the training runs allowed by other countries. Gayda said FIL guidelines were followed “and we largely lived up to those obligations and even surpased them’’ by offering enough practice runs.
The FIL pointed out that Kumaritashvili had 26 runs on the track. That he didn’t finish No. 27, they are saying, is solely his fault.
But they’re going to shorten all the races anyway. Out of the goodness of their hearts.