What Is 'World's Fastest' Really Worth?

Even before yesterday, when Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili crashed and died at the Whistler Sliding Centre, the facility had already been dubbed by many to be the world's fastest.

Whistler Sliding Centre in Whistler, Canada.
Getty Images
Whistler Sliding Centre in Whistler, Canada.

Throughout testing of the track, the speed that could be achieved was deemed as unsafe and accident after accident seemed to suggest that to be the case.

But there's always prestige and marketing value in calling something the world's fastest. It's extraordinary. It, in most walks of life, makes us pay attention more.

Officials have deemed that it was Kumaritashvili's mistake that caused him to fly off his luge and into a metal pole, but there was never any secret that this facility was built with achieving the top speeds in the world.

Today, they've added new walls, changed the profile of the course and had men start at the ladies start point so that the speeds at the Whistler Sliding Centre will be reduced significantly.

Even if Kumaritashvili's death was his own fault, there's no debate that it was a goal to make this course the fastest the world has ever seen. The sad part about that is that while insiders might care about breaking records, spectators don't care at all.

While the "world's fastest" label might make a roller coaster more marketable, it doesn't make a sliding track more marketable to us. We watch the games to see who wins gold, silver and bronze. So, for the majority of people, speed is relative. It only matters who comes in first, second and third.

Since we only watch these sports every four years, we don't even know what these fractions of a second mean. With the modifications made, the world's fastest label might not hold up. Some will say the idea behind making it as fast as it originally was designed to be could have contributed to the death of Kumaritashvili.