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A Georgian On Our Mind

Had This Been Nancy Kerrigan........

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, February 17, 2010.

Boulder is now hailed as the Happiest and Healthiest Place on Earth, or at least in this nation, according to one of those national polls that thrills our increasingly desperate local media.

That media, ever compliant, never supplies its audience with relevant information, like who paid for such a poll, and for God's sake, why? It's the sort of accolade that inspires anyone not an actual idiot to projectile vomit across the room, bike path, or ball field, then issue a press release claiming a new Boulder distance record and list the natural organic contents. While impressive, it will never equal the international records held in some south Asian nation by someone dying of disease, which is by intent. Boulder is compassionate and is happy to allow that superiority to the needy, by which is meant, the inferior.

Still, as an incentive for a Technicolor yawn, such polls pale behind coverage of our concurrent Winter Olympics by NBC, which apparently is on the verge of shooting the beloved pets of competitors if they don't cry on camera for some reason. Any reason. It's revolting beyond the norm, and the norm is pretty awful, but the real anger should be on the stories and - dare it be said? - the responsibility of the media, which is of late and in increasing amounts, deficient to the extreme.

Take the death of the Georgian luge competitor during a practice run. It's a very fast course, with sleds reaching speeds of 95 miles an hour, ten miles per hour above the norm for the event, I read, which is itself pretty impressive and terrifying even in imagination. The competitors have zippo protection against a spill that delivers them into anything not a fifty foot thick pillow at those speeds. It's a dangerous sport, like ski jumping and snowboard events, and we all know it and competitors accept it.

It's doubtful anyone would accept it if stone walls lined the ski slopes, or the odd iron vertical pillar, and certainly not at the base where competitors have to come to a screeching halt. There is little room for error as it stands. We have memories of skiers falling mid run, tumbling in a grotesque illustrative example of broken skis and tibias into those soft snow fences that line blizzard prone highways, although at the speeds they reach 'soft' is a relative term. But in Vancouver, everyone accepted vertical iron beams placed unsoftened whatsoever in a place that even high school physics students would consider dangerous for the luge course.

Like all competitors, Nodar Kumaritashvili, a luger from Georgia, was aware of this. He made an error of taking the final and fastest turn too high or failed to compensate correctly and so instead of staying near the run's center was whipped by Newton's laws too high on the opposite side which left him airborne. Happens. But he was flung across the run into those unmoving vertical steel pillars and was killed. Even if the pillars had those plastic, transparent panes that hockey rinks have, he would have been hurt but he would have skidded along the pane till he returned to the track. This was the fastest turn on the fastest luge track ever. If an accident was going to happen, it would be here, and it was poorly and, I think the case can be made, criminally negligent design.

It's Canada, and Canada is nice, and nobody wants to get into it in the middle of the games. Understood. But as a fellow Georgian said, "None of us can't help believe that there would have been a much bigger reaction and much bigger outrage if this had been an athlete from the United States, or another major country." No kidding. If there is not an investigation under criminal ineptitude statutes, this is a cover up.

But it isn't so much Canada's fault - Canada actually IS nice and generally highly competent - but rather the nauseating Olympic establishment and the equally nauseating demands of the obese American television audience, who these days want to see other fat people lose weight, which makes them a hero and a victor, somehow. Winter sports aren't as popular in the states these days because they're expensive and demand dedication to hours of participation. It's not like you can just walk off the slopes and get a beer and a dog like you can at the park. You have equipment, awkward clothing, and an expensive ticket. It's such a bother. And also, the popular sports of the X-game young are often artistic votes rather than races with cut and dried winners. Also, the judging is corrupt and nonsensical. Also, the competitors are all white in a world that mostly is not.

In aggregate, those are the money issues for potential audience, and a young man, not the top at his sport, paid an unnecessary price. Knowing that should make Boulder, home to many great athletes, a little less happy.