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As Vancouver Olympics begin, NBC airs footage of fatal luge crash

With less than an hour to go until the start of opening ceremonies of the Vancouver Olympics, NBC telecast a few seconds of video that got the games off to a somber start: The horrifying crash that killed Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili earlier Friday. 

Kumaritashvili's death forced NBC to scramble its coverage of an Olympiad that's already generated negative headlines for the $250 million the network expects to lose on the games, plus a last-minute shin injury that jeopardizes the medal quest of U.S. skier Lindsey Vonn. 

Executives made the decision to air Kumaritashvili's accident on "NBC Nightly News," which pointed to safety questions related to some of the Olympic sports. 

"We have suffered a tragedy here before competition has even started: and it has laid open a huge underlying tragedy about the inherent danger in some of these sports, and at some of these venues," NBC anchor Brian Williams wrote earlier today on his blog. "We will talk about that tonight, as our larger package of coverage gets underway."

The entire clip of Kumaritashvili's run - which is available at nbcolympics.com and intermittently on YouTube - shows the luger zipping along the track at blazing speeds and then, about 40 seconds into the run, coming out of a turn and losing control, spiraling out of his sled and smashing into a support pylon. 

NBC, which usually maintains a tight grip on its Olympics footage, made the clip widely available to other news organizations. 

"We released the footage because this was a significant news event," an NBC Sports spokesman said in a statement.

- Scott Collins

Comments () | Archives (44)

Very bad decision by NBC. Brian Williams should be disciplined for lack of judgement.

absolutely a disgrace that this footage was shown so early in the evening and probably should not have been shown AT ALL (let alone repeatedly by NBC)!!!!!

I wonder if NBC would have released the video if the Olympics were in the US and/or if it were an American athlete involved. I think this was done on purpose to make the Canadians look bad.

On a sled track that was designed to be fast, who in their right mind would even think of putting steel support posts that close to the outside exit point of the final turn without providing protection for the competitors?

The reason the posts are outside is so the spectators can have a clear view on the inside. The final turn was obviously designed for the spectators with little or no consideration for competitor safety.

Mr. Kosichek - the course designer - should seriously consider resigning his credentials...waw...

It is unfortunate that an athlete died during his practice luge run. It is also unfortunate that the media and most people are blaming unprotected (padded) posts as the reason for his death. What needs to be done is to keep the people (athlete) within the track or course - use some sort of barrier or netting so that people do not go air-borne and be subject to smashing into fixed objects. If appropriate safety netting or containment was provided this person would have survived. He may have had some injuries, but he would not be dead. You people are going done the wrong road. The point here is to protect the athelets by ensuring they do not become subject to outside hazards - keep them in the venue.
I am very upset and disappointed that you - media - and other people do not understand the safety percautions that should be in place to protect the athelets from serious injury as a result of being thrown from the track or course without adequate safety measures. You people are not thinking about what needs to be done. And shame on you.
John Ripperger

Posthumously award gold for men's luge to Nodar Kumaritashvili.

The IOC ordered the video pulled, but I nevertheless do not understand the need for self-respecting news organizations to show such footage / images? And, don’t give me the ‘public has the right to know’ argument! It’s sensationalism and voyeurism at its worst and shows a complete lack of respect towards the victim and his family!

I do not think NBC should have aired that video footage. Where is the respect for his family? They could have done an animation type thing to show the dangers. Very disrespectful!

Thank you NBC. If not for you I wouldn't be able to appreciate how devastating this accident was; the phrases "speeds of 90+ mph" and "horrifying crash" have no meaning to me without accompanying video.

If not for you I wouldn't be able to appreciate how fragile life can be; the fact that a young athlete had just died carries no weight for me without the images of his bloodied face as attempts were made to save him.

If not for you I'd be watching the Olympics tonight, instead I'm resigned to reading a book; hopefully the author is more confident than you in her ability to communicate without the use of snuff video.

Way to keep it classy guys.

Bad decision. Sickening. NBC nightly news has become Faces of Death.

NBC's coverage of Kumaritashvili's accident and death during initial newscast covering the Olympic Opening Ceremony was very disrespectful and upsetting. While there is a need to cover the news, it was inappropriate to show the repeated video footage of the accident and bloody footage of paramedics working to save Kumaritashvili's life. It shows a lack of respect for Kumaritashvili and his family and friends. In addition, there was no warning in place to say that the footage shown may be disturbing and inappropriate for sensitive viewers. NBC's decision to show this footage was sensationalistic and in deplorable taste.

Here is what I sent NBC and our local affiliate which also showed the crash THREE times.

Your decision to replay and replay and replay the luge incident, is so typical of NBC's tasteless and sensational programming decisions. It is deplorable, and yet so typical of the insensitive nature of the NBC programmers. The story needs to be told but the actual crash scenes again and again and again. TASTELESS and INSENSITIVE to the fallen athlete’s family!!!!!! You should be ashamed. What happened to the honor of the Fourth Estate?

Showing this footage is despicable and disrespectful to the family of the dead athlete. Once again there is no depth to which NBC won't sink in it's endless pursuit of ratings.

I am so utterly disgusted that you thought it was newsworthy to show the footage of the death of the olympic athlete. To the ignorant & uncaring network executive that approved the airing of this footage, let me ask you one thing - would you mind if someone made a video of your death, a video of you struggling for you last breath & then aired it on national television for your family & friends to see & re-live over & over again? Well perhaps that is a stupid question because given the type of person you would have to be to air someone dying, your family probably doesn't give a damn about you & you probably don't have any real friends. Not only did you show the clip once, but you showed it over & over & then you showed a picture of the medical team trying to save him & now you are offering a site where everyone can log on & view it some more. This is not a movie, this is not a chance to make some network rating points, this is the death of a young man!!! What the hell is wrong with you? This is as bad as when some idiot photographer took pictures of Princess Diana when she was dying. Your showing of this young man's death is irresponsible & unfeeling. I will not watch any of the olympics on NBC because of this nor will I ever watch any program on NBC ever again.

Shut the chatter and lets us just watch the opening show. SO ANNOYING

It is tragic enough this young man lost his life. Please stop airing the footage. It minimizes the loss, and ultimately inures people to death. It isn't entertainment.

I am so embarrassed by the Commentators "Baby Boomer" humor, specifically the remarks re: some of the designs of the clothing. We have to stop this as Americans; it is so inappropriate and so much the down side of our country. Please put a halt to the smug, frat house humor at least in a setting like this. The 60’s 70’s etc. type of sarcastic, arrogant humor is so misplaced and so “old”. The hubris that this displays is no way to present ourselves to the world. This kind of comment may belong in the corner pubs, but defiantly not in a world-class setting like this.
Please! Can we grow up and show the dignity and respect to everyone that is required by our society?!

What were you thinking when you decided to show the horrifying footage of a young man' s last moments of life? Our young family was at the dinner table.......Right before the opening ceremonies? Sensational journalism at it's worst! Don't count on us to help your ratings.

I think that NBC needs a reality check in compassion and respect! The entire video is still posted on their website and it shows the ending. The video COULD BE a great start at a tribute to him... but do they have to show the ending?!! This poor 21 year old lost his life today in THAT VERY ACCIDENT. For heaven's sake... fade to white... type "In Memory of..." or something... but please don't replay what is the worst day in his family's life. IDIOT programming decision on the part of NBC and their website. If this were your family member, I hope you'd want the footage taken down or altered.

I believe NBC are complete morons for showing the video on tv for the world to see. It shows that they have no respect for the luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, his family or for Georgia.

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