Organisers defend Luge track design

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Vancouver Winter Olympic organisers have been forced to defend the design of the event's luge track after the tragic death of Georgian competitor Nodar Kumaritashvili cast a shadow over the opening of the Games. The 21–year–old Georgian was killed when he lost control on a practice run and crashed into a metal pole just hours before the Games' opening ceremony on Friday 12 February 2010.

The accident occurred after officials from a number of countries had suggested it was irresponsible for authorities to restrict competitors from other countries to 40 training runs while allowing Canadian athletes to have more than 300. Lorenz Kosichek, project manager at design firm Stantec, said back in 2005 that the facility would be "the most challenging track in the world", and competitors were able to reach world record speeds of more than 150km per hour prior to modifications in the wake of the crash. German engineer Udo Gurgel has designed all Olympic luge tracks since the 1998 Games in Nagano. However, following an investigation by the International Luge Federation and Games organisers, the two parties insisted in a joint statement that the crash was the result of human error and "there was no indication that the accident was caused by deficiencies in the track". Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili rejected the organisers' view that the track was not to blame. "I heard the remarks made by the international federation and they said what happened was because of human error, " said Saakashvili. "With all due respect, and I'm not a competent person to talk about these issues and I don't claim to know all the technical details, but one thing I know for sure–no sports mistake is supposed to lead to a death. Questions were asked about this place. We were told there were some suggestions these walls should have been higher there because there was some eventuality of this happening. "He added at a press conference: "The good news is they've built it now, but I think the best news would be in the future that they listen more to the grievances of sportsmen and they don't have to do things in the aftermath. If this death can lead to improved security and improved response to people expressing concerns maybe it's not in vain. " Organisers of the Games have shortened the track by 200 metres and added extra padding on the more challenging corners. About The Sport Briefing This story has been reproduced with the kind permission of The Sport Briefing. The Sport Briefing is published by PA Sport and can be found at: www. thesportbriefing. comThe Sport Briefing is updated as and when news happens, from across the global business of sport. The industry's biggest stories have an accompanying email alert, and The Sport Briefing sends subscribers a daily digest to give them an easy–to–read overview of the day's main events. Contact rory. squires@thesportbriefing. com for more information.

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