Pitara Kids Network

Athlete’s Death Casts Gloom Over Games

Where: Vancouver, Canada

February 15, 2010 : The 21st Winter Olympics began in Vancouver, Canada, on February 12, 2010. Just hours before the opening ceremony, Georgian athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili died during a practice session. He lost control of his sled, which was going at a speed of 90 miles per hour. The sled flew off the track at a sharp curve and crashed into a metal pillar. His event was luge: an ice sport in which the participant lies face up on a sled and propels himself forward using his calf and shoulder muscles.

A moment’s silence was observed at the opening ceremony in memory of the slain athlete. The 11 member contingent from his country Georgia decided to stay back and participate in the Games as a tribute to their colleague. The luge track was altered after the accident. Nodar’s father David Kumaritashvili, a former luger, said his son had called him before the Olympics, and said, ‘Dad, I’m scared of one of the turns’.

Sports experts are starting to question the safety of the athletes. It is now felt that dangerous sports are increasingly being used to attract young people towards the Games. A study has shown that Winter Olympics athletes suffer far more serious injuries than Summer Olympics athletes. At least five athletes have been killed over the years in Winter Games’ sports, all in training sessions.

There are 82 countries competing in 15 winter sport events at the two week long games. These events come under three categories : ice sports, alpine skiing and snowboarding, and Nordic events. In Nordic skiing events, the heel of the skiers boot cannot be attached to the ski. Bobsled, luge, figure skating and ice hockey are all ice sports.

The Olympic Games are a major international event. The ancient Olympic Games were held as long ago as the 8th century BC. The Modern Olympics as we know them began in 1896 at Athens in Greece. The founder of the Games was Baron Pierre de Coubertin. The International Olympic Council decided to create the Olympic Winter Games in 1925. From 1994, the winter and summer Olympics have not taken place in the same year, but in alternating even-numbered years. Turin in Italy hosted the last Winter Olympics in 2006.