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International Luge Federation Blames Death of Georgian Athlete on “Human Error” – Later Admits Track Did Not Meet Design Specs

Posted by iusbvision on February 19, 2010

Shirking responsibility even in the face of the death of an athlete irritates me, especially when a lie becomes obvious.

Luge Olympian 21-year-old Nodar Kumaritashvili of the Republic of Georgia was killed after a turn it what is designed to be the fastest luge track in the world.

The International Luge Federation blamed the death on athlete error:

The International Luge Federation (ILF) has blamed the crash on the luger and not on any “deficiencies in the track,” saying that Mr. Kumaritashvili “did not compensate properly to make the correct entrance” into the curve where he slid off the track at the Whistler Sliding Centre.

Later the ILF changed it’s story, not about athlete error, but the track itself:

Despite those assertions, Olympic officials took unusual measures on Saturday to shorten the course by 190 yards to slow the speeds, and they altered the run to keep lugers on the track should they crash [they raised the height of the wall after that turn – Editor].

Josef Fendt, president of the luge federation, said on Saturday that the track is safe, but that it had turned out to be far faster than designers ever intended it to be. He said that when designers drew up plans for the winding icy slope on the side of Blackcomb Mountain, 76 miles north of Vancouver, they anticipated speeds of about 87.5 miles per hour. During test events at the facility last year and in training runs before these Olympics, the lugers had been traveling at speeds of 96 miles per hour.

“We did not expect these speeds on this track, but after a while we determined that the track was safe,” Mr. Fendt said. He reiterated comments from last year that luge organizers need to consider a speed limit in the design of future tracks.

I saw an interview with a luge specialist on Russia Today and he said that the tracks are designed to keep the body on the track and not come out in case of an accident.

The video below shows the accident and death of the athlete, normally we would not choose to show this but the video is critical to the story analysis. One can clearly see that right after that sharp turn the walls become very low and there is a line of steel girders right after the wall falls low just after the turn. After watching the video it is obvious why they changed the track as they did.  

Other athletes almost suffered the same price on that track. The UK Independent reports:

Switzerland's Stefan Hoehener competes in the men's luge on Saturday when he barely avoided a repeat of Friday's tragic events.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili wasn’t buying the “athlete error” dodge either:

This is nothing short of a scandal.

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