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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)

NBC proved they are inconsiderate asses by airing the footage of luger Nodar Kumaritashvili's horrific death just as millions were tuning in for the opening ceremony. They show a complete lack of respect for the athlete, his family and his country of Georgia. Shame on you NBC!

Please do no show that footage!!! It is distasteful and NOT necessary for the coverage of the story.... they are profiteering from this young man's tragic death...

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 his ability to communicate without the use of snuff video.

Way to keep it classy guys.

I agree. To so easily access footage of a man's last moments in life, especially as violent as this accident was, is quite surprising. My guess is they will eventually pull the footage as the negative sentiments come pouring in.

I'm am disgusted that NBC chose to show the video footage of the luge crash that resulted in the death of this athlete. Those last moments of life were tragic and should not have been shown to the world.

NBC showed this video for publicity. I'll bet the Luge segments get the highest viewer ratings of all the competitions. People are bloodthirsty.

I can't imagine being that boy's parents when the video happens to air when they least expect it. Horrible.

People, get over it. This is sports at its greatest height. We watched thousands die at 911, this is just a reminder to human competition can be dangerous and sports must take certain measures for the athletes. the young man knew the dangers, and he still competed and nothing was going to stop him. He unfortunately died doing what he wanted to do like so many atheletes before him. Lord be with you Nodar.

I am choosing not to view this video as tempting as it might be(being honest).Some things should just be left from our viewing privelage.It seems thanks to N.B.C.(no brain call)the enternet is no longer primary in viewing horrific incidents that should not be recorded by the media and placed in any public forum. I only pray that this call however foolish as it seems was made for the right reason(though I doubt it).May God be with his family and comfort them in this trying time.

News doesn't have to sensationalize the bitter last bits of anyones life. Comments on the circumstances or reflections on his life handled with dignity would have been sufficient for the world. The broadcasting community owed this young man, his family, and all the world who celebrate the efforts of these outstanding athletes some measure of respect. Also the commentators need to take a stand when presured in these situations

Yes, a very tragic accident and so very difficult to watch but this is the risk and reality of any sport and it's so sad that many people are disappointed and disgusted with NBC. It's a damned if you do and damed if you don't situation for the media. While I had chills down my spine after watching this clip, I certainly respect and understand the position that NBC has taken regarding this matter. So sorry that many don't understand their position. I truly do not see any disrespect on their part as they have a fulfilment toward the public. With that said, my heart goes out to the family, friends and team mates of this wonderful athlete. May they find peace in knowing that he died as so many, doing what he so very much loved to do.

I think NBC should be ashamed of themselves for showing this footage. Regardless of their feeble attempts to defend this decision, there's absolutely no justifiable reason for them to show this. None.

I try to see things from different points of view. The showing of this boys tragic death was for NBC ratings and for nothing else. Did they show everyone coming down the course in slow motion. Tell the tragic story don't show it. The people who think it is their right to see it are wrong. Did any of them care about him before ??????????

NBC,WOW,it just keeps getting better with your network. I can't believe your decision to replay that video. Are your ratings in that much trouble you need to stupe so low. I always was a CBS fan and now i know why. Shame on you.God Bless the Kumaritashvili's family.

well show it post a link so the real world can pick to see this or not

To all NBC executives and Board Members: Clearly, all of you thought it was okay to show the footage of Nodar Kumaritashvili's fatal crash. Shame on you. Shame on all of you. What did NBC gain by showing this footage?

How would you feel about watching footage of the last moments of your child's life? Would you want this footage shown on TV for the world to see? I think not. Bottom line is that you have no compassion, no respect for this young man's family and friends.

Very well put, Joe Nobody!

NBC << No Brain Cells

We had our family gathered around ready to enjoy the beauty of the opening ceremony and I was sickened when NBC aired that horrifyingly graphic footage. We had no chance to turn it off before the children saw it. We were all aware of what happened that morning, informing some of the older children, but we did not feel the need to fill in the details to them, we merely sought to remind them how dangerous these events can be and how brave and skilled these great athletes are. We love the winter Olympics and were deeply saddened by this tragedy. I see no benefit to anyone in seeing the moment of a young mans death, NBC is a despicable network. I just want NBC to know I am done with them, this is not the first incident with this network airing something completely inappropriate, and enough is enough we must draw the line somewhere. Anyone who thinks showing this footage is necessary is either ignorant or sick. This young man had family, and friends that loved him, and a whole country grieving the loss of one of their best and brightest, why add to their pain...sick.

Hey Scott? The luge accident video is also posted on several television websites owned by Tribune Company -- the parent company of the Los Angeles Times. Noticed that was conveniently left out of your reporting...

It's very curious to me that the LA times only kept 13 comments posted on this blog, because I posted an earlier comment about NBC's policies regarding what video it could broadcast. I was a news producer for NBC for 4 years and it had a strict policy NOT to air video of deaths as they occurred. The reasons were simple: it's exploitive, insensitive and from what I have read, a money grabbing scheme because it has a copyright on that video, so all the other networks had to buy it from them. Yes, TV News must cover tragedies such as the the Haiti earthquake or the Katrina Tornado, but one difference you will notice about those two stories compared to the Luge accident is that in Haiti and Katrina, the photographers never shot extreme close-ups of dead, rotting bodies. As a reporter, you can tell a story without disgusting and repulsive video. NBC was flat out wrong and irresponsible to air the actual moment of death of this athlete. They can justify it all they want by using the video to "explain" the risks and dangers of Olympic sports, but in my opinion it was an irresponsible ratings grab and the Excutive Producer and Producer of the Nightly News should be fired for airing it.

It is fine to detail the facts of the incident which led to the death of the competitor, and it is fine to show the run itself, but as soon as you get to the resulting damage to the individual as he is receiving emergency medical attention, you are invading his right to privacy no matter how newsworthy the event itself might be. Noone should be allowed to run film of a person being resuscitated due to the rules protecting a patient's right to privacy. Noone should even be allowed to know the patient's name if we follow rules in place to protect the patient's privacy. Humane newscasting, regardless of ratings, should have been in place here. We are becomming much like the Romans in our zeal to see the sufferings of others. Does noone care about the effect this must have on the family, friends, co-competitors, and countrymen of Georgia?

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