Page last updated at 22:07 GMT, Saturday, 20 February 2010

Olympic luger Kumaritashvili buried in Georgia


Olympic luger buried in Georgia

The funeral of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili - who died during a training run at the Winter Olympics - has taken place in his home town.

Top officials were among hundreds gathered for the service in Bakuriani.

The 21-year-old came off the Whistler track at high speed and crashed into metal pillars hours before the opening ceremony in Vancouver, Canada.

The Georgian Olympic Committee said safety standards had not been met and is deciding whether to take action.

Mourners including Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili gathered outside the athlete's home under clear skies to lay flowers and pay their respects.

Earlier, family and friends gathered for a traditional funeral feast at the Kumaritashvili family home, where a small choir sang Georgian chants.

The athlete's father, David Kumaritashvili, gazed at a portrait of his son and said: "I wanted to throw a wedding feast for you. Instead, we have a funeral."

As few sportsmen who hail from the small winter resort have reached Olympic stardom, the people of the luger's town feel they have lost a sporting hero as well as a cherished member of their community, says the BBC's Tom Esslemont in the town.

Visor on ice

Unanswered questions still surround the accident that led to Kumaritashvili's death.

The athlete's sled struck the inside of the track's last turn during his sixth and final training run, sending his body into the air and over a concrete wall.

Nodar Kumaritashvili
Kumaritashvili came off the track at high speed and crashed into pillars

The men's race went ahead in Vancouver after after changes were made to the track.

The racers' average speeds were significantly cut by lowering the start gate to the one usually reserved for the women's competition.

Georgian Olympic officials say Kumaritashvili's death was caused by a lack of attention to safety standards.

But the athlete's parents say they do not blame anyone; they simply want Nodar to be remembered for a very long time.

A visibly upset International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge said the tragedy had cast a shadow over the games.

Opened: Winter 2008
Vertical drop: 152m
Max gradient: 20%
Track top speed: 95.65mph (153.93kph)
Cost: 104m Can dollars (£63m)
Average speed at Whistler is 15mph greater than at other tracks
Average vertical drop at Whistler is 28m greater than at other tracks

The luge competition went ahead last Saturday after probes by the Coroners Service of British Columbia and the International Luge Federation (FIL) concluded the track was not deficient but that the athlete "did not compensate properly" going into a bend.

The track at Whistler, which is shared by the sports of luge, skeleton and bobsleigh, already has a reputation as one of the fastest - and most dangerous - in the world.

In the build-up to the Games several teams had raised concerns about the safety of athletes, who regularly exceed 90mph as they compete, though Kumaritashvili crashed at a corner which had not been previously identified as a danger area.

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