Sunday, 18 May 2014

The Amazing Race 24, Episode 12

Cheshire, England (UK) - Las Vegas, NV (USA) - Henderson, NV (USA) - Las Vegas, NV (USA)

At the conclusion of The Amazing Race 24, one member of each pair of racers had to jump out of a helicopter and parachute (in tandem with an instructor/guide) onto the infield of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Earlier in this leg of the race, one member of each team was handcuffed and chained inside a wooden crate that was hoisted into the air, set on fire, and then dropped into a bonfire while they tried to “escape”.

No members of the cast were harmed in the filming of this episode. This bit of “reality television” was a play-within-a-play, with the racers playing the part of volunteers picked from the audience at one of the Las Vegas shows staged by the illusionist David Copperfield.

The people we are watching on The Amazing Race are members of the cast of a television show, performing under carefully constructed and controlled conditions. Off camera, stagehands and special effects producers and safety personnel are standing by.

Getting visitors to disconnect fantasy from reality — so that they don’t think about the fact that they are losing real money at the gambling tables and in the slot machines — is central to Las Vegas’ business model. Unfortunately, it’s also a temptation in other locales where the opportunity to engage in dangerous “adventure” or “extreme sports” activities is a major attraction for visitors.

Tourists ourselves are also to blame. We want to put our everyday cares aside when we travel, and we want to imagine that we have walked into a “real-world” fantasy or onto a movie set, where the normal rules of physics and mortality don’t apply.

The canonical case of where this leads may have been the disaster in which eighteen backpacker tourists and three canyoneering guides were killed in a flash flood in a gorge near Saxeten, Switzerland, in 1999.

Six supervisors and managers of the adventure tour company that organized the excursions were eventually convicted of manslaughter by negligence. But that verdict didn’t magically bring anyone back to life, and the incident also shows the danger of relying on a tour company to judge the safety of activities in which your life, and not just theirs, will be at risk.

If David Copperfield picks you from the audience at one of his shows, you can probably play along with some confidence that he’s not really going to saw you in half, even if it might appear that way to your friends who are watching the illusion.

But when you are travelling, it’s not a staged illusion, and there is no “magic”, the lesson of Saxeten is that — as I’ve discussed during previous seasons of The Amazing Race — you can’t assume that an activity is safe just because “Everybody is doing it” and it’s organized and promoted by a reputable-seeming tour company.

If a tour operator makes you sign a waiver of liability before you take part in some activity, that means they aren’t responsible if something does wrong. That doesn’t mean that you should back out, but it does mean that it’s up to you to make your own judgment as to whether it’s sufficiently safe or worth the risk.

You can have plenty of travel fun and excitement without risking life and limb for your thrills. As host and master of ceremonies Phil Keoghan says to the cast at the starting line for each season of The Amazing Race, “Travel safe!”

Link | Posted by Edward on Sunday, 18 May 2014, 23:59 (11:59 PM)
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