The Olympics Opening Ceremonies are almost over. They have set right a day that could have gone sideways.
This morning a horrific accident threatened to cast a pall over the Olympic games. In the press room, someone came in to tell us what he’d hear from the Sliding Center:
A Georgian lugist died in a training run.
By now the death of 21-year-old Nodar Kumaritashvili — who was thrown out of his sled near the bottom of his run, whipped into a metal beam and then slammed onto the ground — is not news.
But the way that the Vancouver organizers have dealt with it has been impressive. They did not cancel the press conference already planned for today. Instead, they devoted the event to today’s tragedy, taking the opportunity to express their sympathy for the athlete and his family, and for the people of Georgia. It was the right thing to do.
As we listened the press conference at the alpine center, the room fell silent. When it was over, we all continued to stare at the screen.
All afternoon we wondered what this would mean.
The Georgian Minister of Sport and Culture gave a press conference later. He reminded the journalists that Georgia was invaded by Russia in 2008, yet Georgia still participated in the Beijing Olympics.
Of course, the Georgians will compete and the games will go on.
The Minister said Kumaritashvili was a talented and ambitious athlete, and that his country was mourning the loss. He said the Georgians would let the investigation into the accident take its course. Also the right thing to do.
Tonight the Georgians remembered Kumaritashvili with black arm bands and a black band on their flag. They received a standing ovation.
Prior to officially opening the games the chairman of the IOC president Jack Rogge stopped to express sympathy again to everyone affected by today’s death.
And, finally, a moment of silence was observed in the stadium and Kumaritashvili’s face was shown on the screen.
And the show went on, and what a show it was.
Vancouver and Canada can be proud. They properly honored the memory of a young man whose Olympic dreams were stolen away, but still created the celebration of multi-nationalism and sport that the Olympics are meant to be.