2010 Winter Olympics: No "Lord Jims" Among Olympic Officials

Steve ThompsonAnalyst IIIFebruary 15, 2010

The last novel I read was Lord Jim, Joseph Conrad’s novel from 1900.  It tells the story of an ordinary man who twice refuses to duck responsibility, no matter how slightly responsible he really is.

The first time, the abandonment of a sinking ship full of Muslim pilgrims causes him be the only one to go on trial (though he did not bear ultimate responsibility), get acquitted, and then self-exile himself.

The second time, the death of a friend from a marauding gang of pirates, who treacherously gave their word to leave the land Jim rules peacefully, causes him to give up his position and offer his life for execution as a way of atonement.

It is this refusal to evade responsibility that gives Jim his nobility.

In contrast, there are no Lord Jims at the Vancouver Olympics in regards to the death of Nodar Kumaritashvili the luger, who died before the games began, training on an unsafe luge course.

Nobody has resigned, nobody has taken responsibility.  Instead the party line has been to blame “driver error” on an inexperienced luger.

If that is indeed the case, why aren’t all the other lugers who are ranked lower than Kumaritashvili (he was seeded 44th) banned from racing in these games?

Through the war years, before he became vice president and then later president of the United States, Harry Truman headed a committee that investigated military contracts, which later saved American taxpayers $15 billion dollars.

Truman, later renowned for not evading responsibility (“The buck stops here”), frequently found companies making defective equipment.

These could include critical things like engines and whole airplanes, things that could cost young American pilots their lives.

Truman would either cancel, or threaten to cancel, these contracts on the spot unless changes were made.  Sometimes even criminal charges were laid, resulting in prison sentences.

These included both manufacturers and the officials who approved the contracts. 

Later, in a biography he would describe such practices by “patriotic” American businessmen who tried to cut corners as “murdering kids."

If only Harry had been around to police and inspect the Vancouver games.  Kumaritashvili might still be alive.  Instead, the party line is that he caused his own death.

But the Whistler course was deemed unsafe long before he made his fatal run.  He, himself, told his father that he felt scared when he went down the track. Supposedly the course was designed on a computer to increase speeds, danger, and new world records.  It looked fine on a screen but not in reality.

But no one claims responsibility for its design or approval.  A few too-late modifications have been made, but that’s it.  Unlike Harry, who threatened retribution on the spot, the IOC says that this is not the time for that because they are in mourning.  The Olympic show must go on.

It doesn’t surprise me about this evasion of responsibility in Canada.  I have had the privilege of seeing both sides of Canada for the last thirty years.

Since the beginning of the 1990s, Canada has grown increasingly elitist in society.

This is nothing new in its history.  Elitism was found in the society of New France and later in the “Family Compact” and “Chateau Clique” of Upper and Lower Canada.

In modern Canada, the last two recessions in have squeezed uncountable people out of society into marginalized situations.

There is now a record amount of poverty in Canada, unprecedented in its history.  Over one million people in just the Greater Toronto area, alone, use food banks.

Meanwhile, in a lot of cases I’ve personally seen, those who are still able to enjoy the good life, carry on as if nothing is going on.

For example, in the last Ontario provincial election, growing unemployment, underemployment, and poverty, which ought to have the No. 1 issue, was not even discussed.  That honor went to something called “faith-based schools."

There is no concern or sense of shame about the deteriorating conditions.  Nobody wants to take responsibility.

Elites are found everywhere in Canada now, in companies, government departments, neighborhoods, condominiums, etc.

In many cases, I’ve seen these “betters” treat others little more than personal servants.  Even common courtesy goes out the window.

For them, it’s their Canada, their Olympic games.  The rest can remain on the outside.

So it’s not surprising that no one has come forward to accept responsibility for what happened to Kumaritashvili. 

It’s easier to hide behind the excuses of inexperience, and that these were sporting games.

What’s different this time is that the lack of responsibility occurred at the Olympics where everybody can see it.  This time the culprits were caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

But as the president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili said, “No sport mistake is supposed to lead to a death."

There are at least some people who agree with him.  The crowd gave the Georgians a standing ovation when they marched into BC place.  The other lugers have worn black arm bands.

But sadly, I’ve seen too many comments both in newspapers and on Bleacher from Canada and from other countries that sing the party line.  They don’t want their Olympics spoiled.

Well, it’s been spoiled already, and there is nothing they can do about it.  Who knows, maybe more casualties may be coming in other events.

Canada built an unsafe track and there should be a full inquiry with possible criminal charges pending.

Before you start criticizing this stand, think of your own situation.  Think of your own children or the person you love most.

Now imagine that person entering a new school pool and drowning and later an inquiry reveals that the pool was unsafe before anybody entered, regardless of experience.

It’s easy to dismiss what happened to Kumaritashvili because it didn’t happen to someone you loved.

But if it happened to someone that mattered to you, what would you want done?

If there had been a young child who drowned in a pool in such a situation, there would be a full-scale inquiry with possible criminal charges laid.

When Ben Johnson brought shame to Canada, there was a full scale inquiry. His crime?  Merely doping himself so he could cheat and win.

This is a far more serious matter.  An athlete lost his life.

The people who designed, built, and approved the Whistler luge course have brought shame, death, and dishonor to Canada.

The continued evasion of responsibility only increases it.

Let a full inquiry occur and possible criminal charges brought.



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