VANOC’s Email Comes Back to Haunt It
If there is one thing the sports world has taught me over the past year or so, it is to never EVER put anything in writing (or pictures or voicemail for that matter) that could some day come back to haunt me. Exhibit J:
Nearly a year after old emails have suddenly surfaced indicating VANOC, the Vancouver Olympics organizing committee, knew the track was dangerous at least as far back as March 2009. The emails were part of a series of documents released to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation through British Columbia’s Access to Information Act.
The emails began in response to concerns of the International Luge Federation(FIL) that athletes would not be able to handle any future luge tracks designed to exceed Whistler’s “extremely high speeds.” Managing Director of Sport for VANOC Tim Gayda started the email thread with: “There is nothing to do on our side but it does put in writing concern about the speeds of the track if there was ever an incident.”
VANOC head John Furlong replied: “[E]mbedded in this note (cryptic as it may be) is a warning that the track is in their view too fast and someone could get badly hurt. An athlete gets badly injured or worse and I think the case could be made we were warned and did nothing.” You think?
He continued, “I’m not sure where the exit sign or way out is on this. Our legal guys should review at least.” The legal team must have concluded that VANOC was not responsible for guaranteeing the safety of the track. And that was it. VANOC had fulfilled its duty.
This case was closed. The coroner had ruled that Kumaritashvili’s inexperience “set a backdrop for the incident and was a significant disadvantage as far as safety was concerned.” A report by the FIL concluded driver error was to blame for the crash. But now Kumaritashvili’s father is requesting that the investigation be reopened and the Georgian Olympic Committee is demanding an explanation—all due to this trail of emails. A year later, Furlong now has to defendhis actions (or lack thereof), saying the emails were written to make sure VANOC was doing everything it needed to on its end to ensure the track was safe. They’re back to playing the blame game with the luge and bobsled federations, which VANOC says were responsible for the safety and design of the track.
Furlong wouldn’t be in this situation right now if the members of VANOC had expressed their concerns face-to-face instead of over email. Furlong should have consulted his legal team before memorializing his thoughts in writing. As Tiger and Brett can attest, don’t put anything out there you wouldn’t want the rest of the world to see.