Letter: Statistical odds that combined to cause the grand fiasco at Aintree

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The Independent Online
Sir: There seem to have been four factors that together combined to create the Grand National fiasco on Saturday: animal rights protesters getting on to the course; the foul weather; the inadequate starting mechanism; and the man who did not flag. Statistically these four factors were not independent of each other, but it would be realistic to say that the chance of all four factors happening together might have been something between 100-1 and 1,000-1 against. Few people would back a horse with odds like those.

There are other just-as-likely disasters waiting to happen in this and other sports, with equally catastrophic consequences on the sport in question. A jockey could be killed or severely injured in the race or animal rights activists could run suicidally on to the course in front of the horses. No one wants disaster, but every disaster has its odds. The question is, what odds are acceptable? 1,000-1? 1,000,000-1? If so, we can ultimately say goodbye to motor racing, cricket, rugby and indeed any activity in life that carries any amount of risk.

Let the authorities strive to reduce obvious risks, but let's also be realistic. Risk and failure are some of the things that make sport interesting, and one thing is for sure - for me as Joe Public this was the most interesting Grand National since Red Rum overtook Crisp.

Yours faithfully,

ROBERT EASTAWAY

London, SE22

3 April

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