Dismal Start To Olympics As Luger Passes Away During Practice

Chris AllenSenior Analyst IFebruary 13, 2010

The 2010 Vancouver Olympics were planned to be an exciting, memorable experience for all athletes, spectators, officials, organizers, and everyone involved in the 21st Winter Olympics.

However, this morning, the joyous celebration was postponed as tragedy unfolded at the Whistler Sliding Center in Whistler, BC.

Georgian Olympian Nodar Kumaritashvili crashed this morning during his final luge practice in Whistler. It appears Kumaritashvili went too high on the 270 degree turn, and when he went down off the turn he was immediately launched onto the other side of the track and flew straight into a steel pole, knocking him unconscious.

CPR was attempted through a plastic tube at the scene of the accident before sending Kumaritashvili to hospital. Volunteers were seen standing in tears as the Georgian born luger was loaded into the ambulance.

Kumaritashvili was immediately placed on a stretcher and taken to hospital. He was pronounced dead in hospital after failed attempts of recuscitation.

Kumaritashvili's tragic passing has raised many questions about Whistler's Sliding Center, which has been closed for investigation by the International Luge Federation, and will not be opened until it is declared safe by the ILF.

The track has been sharply criticized by the president of the International Luge Federation, Josef Fendt.

"The track is too fast," Josef Fendt told London’s Daily Telegraph. "We had planned it to be a maximum of 137 km/h but it is about 20km/h faster. We think this is a planning mistake.’’

This is not the first problem with the Whistler Sliding Center during training runs either. 2002 and 2006 Olympian gold medalist Armin Zoeggeler crashed in his first run on Friday, but was uninjured.

Shortly before Kumaritashvili's crash, American luger Bengt Walden, who crashed on his run, said the ILF officials had already started expressing concerns with the high speeds produced on the track.

“I don’t think they’re going to build more faster tracks than this,” said Walden about the ILF's comments on the Whistler Sliding Center,“The (federation) was almost unhappy with how fast the track turned out to be but we’ll see.”

Kumaritashvili was estimated at 144 km/h just seconds before crashing.

The IOC is scheduled to make an announcement at 4:30 GMT on Saturday as to whether the luge competition will be cancelled or not.

The Georgian team was seen walking through the Olympic Parade wearing black armbands in memory of Kumaritashvili. They will continue to participate in the 2010 Olympics as a tribute to their fallen team mate.