At Fanhouse, sports commentator Jay Mariotti details a history of growing complaints about the dangers of the luge course, going back over many months. It appears that a whole week of practice wipeouts on the course -- an unusual number -- didn't rouse any attention from the IOC or the International Luge Federation or the local organizing committee. Indeed, late last night, Olympic officials decided that Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili was killed in that horrific practice accident because of his own error and not because of any over-the-top logistics in how the course was constructed -- even though they're making some hasty modifications at the so-called "50-50" turn where he was propelled airborne and slammed off the railing.
And the ILF is now investigating. So, despite that "show must go on" decision, the controversy is probably not over, and will grow to cast a further shadow over these Games -- which have already cast a financial shadow over the city of Vancouver and Canada.
I've been following this thread of post-Olympics debt ever since the Athens Olympics, when Greece was left struggling with a negative balance that was starkly out of proportion to the small size of that country's economy. The deficit was partly due to last-minute upped expenses for security. It has taken a year and a half for debt effects to kick in, but just days ago, the Greek government was petitioning the EU for a bail-out loan. Now Canada has spent a reported $6 billion on the Vancouver Games, according to an investigative report in the Vancouver Sun. According to the Sun, $800 million will be spent on security alone, which is almost 8 times the original figure budgeted. Taxes were collected from all over Canada to raise money for Vancouver -- with citizens sometimes not knowing (according to the Sun) what those increased taxes were being used for.
On top of the quest to make each Winter and Summer Games "faster, higher, stronger" (read more spectacular and attention-getting, especially for TV), comes the risk that human life is more broadly at stake. Not only the lives of individual athletes -- but also the quality of life for citizens in countries where post-Olympics debt has a deep impact. We have yet to see how China handles its post-Beijing deficit. As for Canada, $6 billion would buy an awful lot of education and healthcare.
With the Vancouver Games, have we reached the point where the costs of pushing the competitive and financial envelopes so hard are going to reach a tipping point? Can the world, in its current state of economic collapse, afford to be spending on sports spectaculars like this when basics like food, shelter, health and education are in crisis everywhere? I wonder.