Yesterday was the day of Opening Ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games ... which is something that my home town has been working towards and looking forward to for the past several years ... a time to celebrate winter sports on a world scale ... and show off our city and our mountains (Whistler) and our country to the world. Instead of celebration, the town was devasted with the worst news possible - a luge competitor died during a training run when he fell off his sled and flew over the protective barriers, hitting a steel post.
What does this have to do with PV? Safety in ALL sports!
Our luge track is the fastest in the world ... Nodar Kumaritashvili of Georgia was going 89 mph when he crashed. Some pundits say the track is TOO fast ... some say all you need is 80 mph for a good race that separates the boys from the men. The speed reached is simply a function of the steepness of the slope ... and the way the curves are built ... which is engineered into the track's design.
Today, they have declared the track safe ... the Games will go on, with luge competition starting today ... stating that it was simply a freak accident ... he lost a BIT of control of his sled on the previous curve, and went into the final turn too high. He then over-compensated causing him to crash into the opposite wall, bouncing off that and over the guard rail on the outside curve. If you watch the accident, you may wonder why the rails weren't higher, or why the posts were so close to the track. I wondered this too.
This was apparently a freak accident, and the safety of the track was not to blame.
While not wanting to rant against the Olympic Games in my home town, I feel that ALL sports need to be safer, so that deaths are reduced to near-zero. I'm more concerned about PV than luge here, but I think it's all a matter of statistics. Just becuz there's a 100,000 to 1 chance, or a million to 1 chance of a death in a sport, I don't think you should write it off as "the cost of doing business". What is the harm of raising the guard rails another 40-60 cm around the dangerous curves? They've actually done this, just as a "safety precaution" ... somewhat unwillingly ... saying it wasn't strickly necessary becuz it was the athlete's error in judgement that he missed the curve. I don't think the proximity of the steel posts to the track was poor design. At 90 mph, the solution is to keep the athlete on the track at all costs ... even if he's out of control.
But I ask: Why not ASSUME the worst case? Sooner or later there WILL be an athlete that misses that curve, so fix it NOW ... before an accident happens. Sadly, some people buy insurance only after their house burns down.
What can we do to improve the safety of PV? EVERYTHING WE CAN! This includes proper coaching and proper vaulting, with the right grip on the right pole. But it ALSO includes ensuring that there are no foreign objects around the pit. This costs NOTHING ... it just takes a bit of common sense! Just becuz there's just a 100,000 to 1 chance or a million to 1 chance that someone might miss the pit and strike a hard object nearby is NOT enough reason to get sloppy. I think we need to change our mindset to one of SAFETY FIRST ... expect the unexpected, and fix safety hazards BEFORE they happen. Even if there is an additional cost associated with additional safety precautions, it's far less than the cost of a life.
Apparently luge is quite a safe sport ... based on deaths per year. Safer than PV ... I heard that the last luge death was in 1964 ... altho maybe they were only talking about Olympic Games luge events. At any rate, that's why I worry about PV safety ... it's a more dangerous sport.
End of rant.