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

February 12, 2010 |  4:38 pm

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

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