No single cause for Olympic tragedy: officials
Luge federation leaders to complete investigation this weekend
The leaders of the International Luge Federation will meet in Austria this weekend to complete their investigation into the accident that killed Nodar Kumaritashvili at the Vancouver Olympics.
Officials from the federation's sport and technical commissions hope to sign off on a report analyzing the 21-year-old Georgian's crash at the Whistler Sliding Centre, the world's fastest track.
The report is expected to say no single reason explains how and why Kumaritashvili crashed. He was flung from the ice and struck an exposed steel pole after losing control of his sled on the final curve at nearly 145 km/h.
The governing body, known as FIL, cited Kumaritashvili's tactical errors in preliminary findings within 24 hours of the Feb. 12 fatality — the day the Olympics opened. The track reopened on a shorter, slower and safer course.
"During the Games there was limited time and we still had a competition to run," FIL secretary general Svein Romstad told The Associated Press. "Now we have had time to go through all the technical reports and police reports."
The Vancouver Olympic organizing committee, or VANOC, said Thursday it has submitted staff accounts of the crash and track statistics to the FIL.
Spokeswoman Renee Smith-Valade said the committee expects to see the report at the same time as the IOC, or shortly after.
"We've co-operated with the FIL in providing any information needed for their report, as they are the experts who governed all aspects of the luge facility construction and approval, training and competition before and during the 2010 Games, and any future FIL-sanctioned activity there," she said.
"They're clearly preparing as thorough an analysis of the circumstances and causes of this tragic accident as is possible and we look forward to receiving the final report and will comment more directly once it is public."
IOC requests document
The FIL document, written by Romstad and fellow American official Claire DelNegro, was requested by the International Olympic Committee.
"FIL officials will present their final report on the tragic luge accident involving Nodar Kumaritashvili to the IOC on Monday," the Lausanne-based organization said in a statement, "after which the IOC intends to carefully study the document."
No date has been fixed to publish the report, which will be sent to the British Columbia coroner's service.
The Canadian authority is expected to publish its examination of how Kumaritashvili died next month. It could yet decide to hold a formal inquest hearing.
Romstad said luge officials were initially "baffled" by the death because of the safety precautions in place. The $105-million track was built for the Olympics two years ago.
Even though the IOC has a policy of "universality" that helps fund many athletes from smaller countries and encourages governing bodies to find entries for them, Romstad said Olympic leaders want to know how Kumaritashvili met the standard set by FIL. The Georgian was ranked 44th out of 65 sliders in the season-long World Cup standings.
"Did he make it because he was from the Republic of Georgia?" Romstad asked.
Luger's family keeping low profile
No one from Kumaritashvili's family, which has numerous links to luge racing, is expected to attend the scheduled meetings Saturday and Sunday at St. Leonhard, near Salzburg.
Georgia is not represented on the two panels but its federation officials have contributed to the investigation, Romstad said, on visits to FIL offices in Berchtesgaden, Germany.
The report's completion will open a wider debate in luge circles.
"It will not include recommendations for change yet, but will instead begin a process of re-examining the sport and how it is managed," said Romstad, himself a former racer.
The debate will continue at the FIL Congress scheduled for June in Sochi, Russia, site of the 2014 Winter Games, which will soon build its own sliding track.
Sochi organizers have been told to keep well below the world-record 155 km/h speeds reached in Whistler.
"They need to be compliant to the 135 km/h limit or we will not approve it," Romstad said. "People have to understand that we haven't finished the process as far as how to move forward from here."