Saturday, February 13, 2010

Casting a Pall

Death of Luger Nodar Kumaritashvilli Leaves Media at a Loss for Other Words

The papers that came to my door this morning read as follows:

Luger's Death Casts Pall Over Start of the Winter Games--Wall Street Journal

Luge Athlete's Death Casts Pall Over Olympics--New York Times

The death of a Georgian competitor in the luge during training cast a pall over the opening of the Vancouver Winter Olympics.....(opening of refer on A1 of Financial Times)


It actually has several definitions. But the apt one here for the horrific death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvilli is "anything that covers, shrouds, or overspreads, esp. with darkness or gloom," according to
A pall can also be a cover for a coffin, bier, or tomb. That will come later.
Obviously, the athletes, officials, dignitaries and journalists at the Vancouver Games were shocked and saddened by the crash, which is now being attributed to human error. In other words, Kumaritashvilli didn't have enough experience to handle a challenging curve on a highly technical track while going nearly 90 mph.
But while the tragedy is unmistaken, after watching the opening ceremonies last night -- and no, you didn't need to stay up late to know Gretzky was going to light the flame -- you have to wonder if there was really a pall. It was a deservedly festive affair, understated, dignified and entirely appropriate. Very Canadian indeed.
I didn't sense a pall. It would have been easier as well as more accurate to describe the incident as one that "momentarily tempered" or "muted" the celebration, especially when the Georgian team entered the stadium and, later, when a moment of silence was held for the fallen luger.
And Kumaritashvilli's death doesn't appear to have cast a pall at the luge track either, where today -- aside from a "change in the ice profile -- it's business as usual.
For another interesting take on how papers handled the crash, Charles Apple looks at it from the perspective of a graphics editor, asking whether this really needed to go on A1. The answer he reluctantly comes to, I much less reluctantly come to, is yes.

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