Olympic Spirit

I had a brief crisis of faith in the human spirit yesterday.

I read this article by James Lawton for The Independent and just couldn’t believe what I was reading. For those of you living in a hole, the Winter Olympics got off to a rough start as a young Georgian luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili, was killed during a practice run on the olympic luge course. Killed. The immediate outpouring of emotion, sympathy, and concern for the remaining athlete’s safety was touching and shared by all.

Well, by nearly all…

In his article, Lawton quotes Canadian luger Jeff Christie. When asked about his fellow athlete’s death and how moving the start of the course nearly 200 yards down the ice would make things safer for everyone, he could only reply, “The changes certainly haven’t helped us. I’ve had 200-plus runs from the top. We put a lot of time, money and effort into coming here to slide off the top and they decided to move it down… yes, it’s definitely a disadvantage. I have had all those runs from the top and I have the rhythm down. It’s mentally tough to be able to switch that rhythm and come down from the ladies’ start. It’s going to be a grind for the next two races.”

Seriously?! That’s the best you can come up with? “It won’t help us win…”?!

Nevermind the fact that the Canadian team had been hogging the track for practice runs. (Christie said he’d had over 200 practice runs; Kumaritashvili died on his 26th run). The host country hogging the courses for practice is a long and honored tradition in the Olympics. Every host nation wants to give its athletes the best possible chance to win in front of the whole world, so I’m not begrudging Canada their “us half the time and the rest of the world the other half” scheduling policy. I’m really not.

But a man died. A young man won’t be returning home victorious, or even in the agony of defeat. He will be returning home in a box. And it offended me greatly, and caused my crisis of faith in the human spirit, that a fellow athlete could only mourn the fact that his competitive advantage was gone.

But I’m better now. I realized that, even if the “Canadians are the nicest people in the world” stereotype is true, it can’t be expected to apply to all Canadians. I know lots of jerks here in the US, but I still feel like our society has a ton of great things to offer. And there have been enough great moments so far in these Olympics to reassure me that Jeff Christie is the abnormality among Olympic athletes, not the rule.

What shakes your faith in people? In God? How do you handle it?



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