New questions about 2010 Vancouver luge death

Vancouver: Concerns were raised about the safety of the luge track at the Vancouver Olympics nearly a year before a Georgian athlete was killed on the eve of the 2010 Games, Canadian media reported Monday.

The head of Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC), John Furlong, asked the group`s lawyers to look into the issue of higher than expected track speeds after reviewing a letter from the International Luge Federation to the track`s designer.

Furlong said he was concerned the letter was a warning that an athlete "could get badly hurt," according to e-mails published by a newspaper.

"An athlete gets badly injured or worse and I think the case could be made we were warned and did nothing. That said, I`m not sure where the exit sign is or way out is on this," Furlong wrote in March 24, 2009, to other VANOC officials.

The other VANOC officials dismissed the concern and said the luge federation`s letter was actually intended to prevent similar design surprises with the track being built for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, the report said.

Nodar Kumaritashvili, 21, was killed during a practice run just hour before the start of 2010 Vancouver Games when he lost control of his luge, flew off the track and slammed into a metal support post.

A coroner`s investigation said Kumaritashvili`s high speed and relative inexperience on the new facility contributed to the accident. Investigators recommended luge officials require independent safety audits of future track designs.

Several safety changes were made to the 2010 facility immediately after the accident, but both VANOC and international luge racing officials said that Kumaritashvili`s death could not have been foreseen.

Furlong said the design was the responsibility of the luge federation and he was only seeking reassurance that VANOC was accurately following their directions in building the facility.

Bureau Report