Before the competitions and celebrations even began in Vancouver, British Columbia on Friday a fatal accident occurred in front of onlookers. Twenty-one-year-old luger Nodar Kumaritashvili lost control of his sled at 90 mph rounding a turn known as “the 50-50 curve” and was launched out of the course hitting a metal support beam in air, according to an article in the New York Times. He was pronounced dead at the hospital. A CNN article said the $100 million Whistler course is the fastest in the world and is also used by bobsled and skeleton competitors.
The graphic video of the accident initially circled around the internet, but was appropriately taken off most sites including msnbc.com and youtube. The only current video up is the Associated Press‘ account of the story, in which the images are blurred for ethical reasons.
Traditionally, Olympics offer a chance to showcase a city, attract visitors and promote tourism. But this year the Winter Olympics experienced problems and got off to a rough start. Protestors rallied to demand the track be altered and rain caused the delay of two events, among other malfunctions.
These events brought several questions to mind:
1) How much planning goes into an event like this? How far in advance?
2) How can a city anticipate the amount of people that the event will bring to the city?
3) Who are the primary stakeholders in this crisis? How were they addressed?
4) What precautions can be taken to prepare for crises, like the one that happened this year with the luger?
John Furlong, CEO of the Vancouver Organizing Committee, told reporters “I am so sorry to be in this position and to be reporting this to you. It’s not something I had prepared for, never thought I would need to be prepared for.”
International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge issued a statement saying “Our first thoughts are with the family, friends and colleagues of the athlete. The whole Olympic Family is struck by this tragedy, which clearly casts a shadow over these Games.” A full statement from the organization can be found on the same site.