Even with planning that began a decade ago, the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada have already had their fair share of mishaps before competition even began.
The first came early Friday, when Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili suffered a horrific crash during a training run at the Whistler Sliding Center. Kumaritashvili lost control of his sled and flew over the outer barrier, slamming into an unpadded metal pole. Attempts to revive the unconscious 21-year-old failed, and he was pronounced dead after being airlifted to a local hospital.
Kumaritashvili’s crash was one of the most horrible accidents in recent Olympic history, but it was not entirely unforeseen. Not only was a luger killed in the sport’s first introduction to the Olympic games in 1964, but concerns were also raised about the Whistler track in particular. In just two days, there were three separate crashes, including another where the athlete was airlifted from the track that many are calling too fast and too dangerous for competition.
Worries of another kind have arisen at more of Vancouver’s Olympic venues as well, especially the ski hills. Last week’s rain and relatively warm temperatures turned the Whistler runs into a collection of soggy slopes and have delayed women and men’s downhill races until no earlier than Monday.
Olympic officials have been working frantically to improve conditions to racing standards, even carting in snow to the site for freestyle skiing and snowboarding at Cypress Mountain.
Finally, as if Kumaritashvili’s tragedy and the dismal weather weren’t enough, the week was capped off by a noticeable blunder in Friday’s elaborate opening ceremony. Due to a mechanical failure, one of the four colossal architectural pillars failed to rise during the climactic lighting of the Olympic cauldron.
All that the Olympians and officials can hope for now is that the opening ceremony marked the closing of Vancouver’s streak of misfortune.