Host country not to blame

British media outlets like the Daily Mail and the Guardian are criticizing Canada for being a poor Olympic host, CBC News reported Feb. 15.

The Daily Mail places the blame on Canada for the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, who died during a practice run in Whistler, British Columbia on what has been called one of the world’s fastest and most difficult luge tracks.

Officials from the International Luge Federation concluded the accident was caused by human error rather than problems with the track, despite the fact that the track was altered for safety reasons after the tragedy.

It’s a misrepresentation to say Canada is to blame for Kumaritashvili’s accident. The luger’s death was brought about by human error rather than malicious intent. The track in Whistler was designed with input from professionals in countries other than Canada and was built by a German, Udo Gurgel.

No country should shoulder the blame for Kumaritashvili’s death. The incident should be taken at face value as a tragedy for which it’s impossible and unnecessary to place blame. The global community can learn form this incident going forward, rather than pointing fingers at Canada. It’s a call to look for ways to ensure safety in the Games.

It’s also naïve to suggest there’s no risk to luging. Olympic athletes want to compete in the most challenging facilities, and to critique the Vancouver Games’ organizers and engineers for delivering competitive quality is misguided.

Some of the British media’s other criticisms of Canada’s Olympic hosting are valid. Hosting the Games was a good opportunity for Canada to showcase the nation’s capabilities, but several glitches suggest we’re falling short. The mechanical failure of the main torch structure during the Opening Ceremonies provided an opportunity for Canada to be mocked on the world stage.

Complaints about there not being ample snow at Cypress and Whistler are legitimate, but weather problems are hardly the fault of a host city’s people.

It’s likely British media is coming down hard on Vancouver because London would like an easy act to follow when their turn to host the Games comes in 2012.

The Olympics generate nationalism, for better or for worse. It’s unfortunate criticism of the Vancouver games has come down to unproductive nationalist views against the whole of Canada as a host. There are still 11 days of competition remaining in Vancouver, and ample time left to impress.

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