VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The International Olympic Committee's need to push the envelope is sewn into its motto Citius, Altius, Fortius - or swifter, higher, stronger - as if to be swift enough, fast enough or strong enough were a weakness or, at the least, a lame marketing idea. So over the past decade, in an effort to remain edgy, relevant and riveting, the IOC has ratcheted up the drama by going to the extreme, enlisting the hotdog hounds of freestyle skiing and seducing daredevil snowboarders to the Games.
The IOC's thrill-seeking devotion is boundless - and reckless. For months, the IOC failed to see the red flags concerning the danger lurking on the sliding course at the Vancouver Games. The leaders didn't listen as lugers complained that Canada had not allowed them enough practice time on a course its designers called the "most challenging track in the world." They didn't pay attention when one of the sliding track's curves -- No. 13 -- was dubbed '50-50' by bobsledders because that was the chance of crashing on it. They didn't make a note when one luger after another was unable to get down the track unscathed in practice runs this week. "To what extent are we just little lemmings that they just throw down a track," Australia's
What happened to
Here's what Rogge should have said: The athletes' safety is the IOC's top priority and not one more competitor will travel down that track until the investigation is complete and the course can be stamped as fit for the event.
There is no doubt that speed is a seductress for audiences. But, unlike the IOC, other organizations have put hard limits on how dangerous sports have to be. In 1987, stock car driver
Somehow, Allison survived. But the sight of the horrifying crash - as spectacular as it was - ushered in the era of the restrictor plate, a piece of aluminum with holes punched in it that limits airflow to the engine and inhibits speed. The result? As it turned out, fans didn't miss the death-defying speeds because the competition - the pure racin' by the drivers - was enough of an attraction.
Sometimes, "enough" is a crowd pleaser. At some point, the IOC will have to show confidence in the competition. At some point, they will have to recognize the signs of trouble. What the IOC failed to see on the luge course is repeating itself in snowboarding. In recent months, snowboarders have suffered head injuries and concussions as they increase the difficulty -- and heighten the danger -- on their tricks. Just two weeks ago,
Some falls are too fast, from too high. When does reason take over? "The evolution of a sport is pretty vital to keep it from plateauing and right now it's moving to double corks," said Canadian snowboarder
The expectation is for an Olympian to push the envelope. The IOC has made that its motto. But as other sporting organizations have proven, there are ways to eliminate spills without killing the thrill.