Report: VANOC knew track was dangerous

By BOB MACKIN, QMI Agency

VANCOUVER - The vice-president of sport for Vancouver’s Olympic committee said the International Luge Federation was more concerned with the design of the Sochi 2014 sliding track in Russia than it was about the Whistler Sliding Centre.

Documents from March 2009 released Monday show VANOC executives worried about track safety less than a year before luger Nodar Kumaritashvili’s Feb. 12, 2010 death.

"The organizer builds the venues to the specifications of the international federation. We did that,” Tim Gayda, who now heads Sport BC, told QMI. “We did everything that was asked of us. They're the experts and we'd always turn to them."

A March 25, 2009 email from Gayda to VANOC CEO John Furlong said the track “really is about 10 km faster than what was originally anticipated”. A day earlier, Furlong suggested the legal department review correspondence from FIL to track designer Udo Gurgel because “an athlete gets badly injured, or worse, and I think the case could be made we were warned and did nothing”.

Furlong’s memoir, Patriot Hearts, claims VANOC never contemplated an athlete dying on opening day. In June 2009, senior members of the VANOC medical team simulated a serious bobsled crash in New Westminster, B.C. during a Canadian Academy of Sports Medicine seminar. VANOC also had life insurance policies for athletes. Kumaritashvili’s family, according to Furlong’s book, was to receive $150,000. He personally delivered $25,000 to the Kumaritashvili's father David at the March funeral in Georgia.

The death was ruled accidental by coroner Tom Pawlowski. No inquest was ordered, but a safety audit was recommended for the track.

“I am indignant that they were aware that the track was dangerous and failed to make it safer," David Kumaritashvili told the Associated Press.

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