Olympics / Winter Olympics / Winter Sports

An Atlas Obscura history of luge

Dan Nosowitz explored the history of luge for Atlas Obscura, a sport that started life amongst ancient Germanic tribes:

Sleds are great even without snow—they might have been used to build the Egyptian pyramids—but are particularly great at high altitudes and latitudes, to move gigantic building materials in China, or food and belongings in pre-Columbian North America. But how in the world did this utilitarian origin give us luge, what appears to be a psychotically dangerous sport that requires athletes to blast down artificial ice tubes at speeds approaching 90 miles per hour while seated on the most minimalist fiberglass-and-steel object that could be recognizable as a sled? The story takes us on a journey from Germanic tribal wars against the Romans, to aristocratic and very bored Englishmen on vacation, to the world of highly advanced sports technology.

And my favourite excerpt:

Do you remember ever being bored on vacation, and making up a game with a sibling—tossing seashells or creating an obstacle course in the hotel room? Now imagine that game ended up a heavily funded fixture at the freaking Olympics. That’s luge.

Interestingly, the Beijing Winter Olympics will be the first where the luge won’t feature any Swiss or British athletes—”the countries that, probably, started it all”, according to Nosowitz.

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