Nodar Kumaritashvili, a 21-year-old luger from the former Soviet republic of Georgia, has died from head injuries as a result of a horrific crash near the finish line, according to the Toronto Sun.
Kumaritashvili was traveling close to 90 mph when he hit a wall, catapulted into the air, and hit an unpadded steel pole.
Medics rushed to his aid, performed chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and, within eight minutes, he was emergency air-lifted to a local hospital with life-threatening injuries. He died around noon, PST.
This crash will obviously hang a dark cloud over the Olympics' Opening Ceremonies, but the bigger picture of this just-barely-turned-21-year-old's death should now be addressed—was his death preventable?
Prior to Kumaritashvili's crash, Romanian luger Violeta Stramaturaru had crashed into several walls and was unconscious for a short time—she appears to have no serious side effects. But the criticisms of this track—the world's fastest—had already begun.
Australia's Hannah Campbell-Pegg addressed her concerns to the media on Thursday, and she didn't sugar-coat her feelings.
"I think they are pushing it a little too much," Campbell-Pegg said. "To what extent are we just little lemmings that they just throw down a track and we're crash-test dummies? I mean, this is our lives and we enjoy doing this sport ... but then again, people haven't had the runs here. The Canadians are doing fine and they've had a lot of runs. I still think it's a safer track than Torino."
According to Deadspin.com, American luger Tony Benshoof told NBC: "When I first got on this track, I thought that somebody was going to kill themselves."
Could a luger's death have been preventable by the International Olympic Committee?
According to several reports, the host nation Canada limited access to the track. Where was the IOC in this matter, and why wasn't it scrutinized by them?
While Canadians feel right at home on Whistler's Sliding Track and its twisting, infamous turns, other nations' athletes are not familiar with, for example, "50-50"—a nickname for turn 13—which are the odds of leaving that turn without an accident.
The limited access has created acrimony among a few potential Olympians, including American skeleton racer Katie Uhlaender, who described those actions as not keeping with the Olympic spirit and called them, "rude, to say the least," according to AmericanChronicle.com.
Besides the limited access to the track, there is another probable concern for sliders—why are metal poles at the track unpadded?
The organizers of this venue know the inherent dangers of this track. Doctors, several ambulances, and a helicopter pad are on site in case of emergency, yet large metal poles and beams are next to the track and completely unpadded.
Yes, sliding is a dangerous sport. But when athletes voice their concerns over a track's safety and a death occurs on that same track, it is completely unacceptable.
A young man lost his life while participating in a dangerous sport. He knew there was risk of serious injury but likely assumed all safety concerns had been addressed. He assumed wrong.
As of now, the track has been closed.
And despite denying sliders the opportunity to compete for Olympic glory, it should remain closed.
Vancouver has lost one of its world citizens. Let's keep it at one, and learn our lesson.
Warning: The video, which was originally posted here, contains graphic images and may not be suitable for some viewers.
If the video is not available, The Huffington Post has some photos to to make the severity of this unfortunate incident more tangible.