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Last Updated: Saturday February 13 2010 13:11 GMT

Olympic luger dies after crash

Nodar Kumaritashvili died during a practise run just hours before the start of the Winter Olympics. The athlete is rememberd at the Opening ceremony.

The 2010 Winter Olympics have started in Vancouver, Canada but the opening ceremony was overshadowed by the death of a competitor from Georgia.

21-year-old luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died when he came off his sled during a practise run. It happened just hours before the games opened.

The Georgian team wore black armbands to the ceremony, and a minute's silence was held to remember the athlete.

Olympic organisers have ruled the luge event will still go ahead.

They examined the track and said that it is not unsafe.

Dangerous

However - 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.

Athletes can travel at a speed of around 90 miles per hour going down it.

Raising the pole

Nodar Kumaritashvili died when he smashed into an unpadded steel pole at the practise track in Whistler.

Medical help arrived quickly, but they couldn't save him.

The International Luge Federation and local coroners said that Kumaritashvili "did not compensate properly" going into a bend.

As a precaution, the walls at the exit of the final curve, where Kumaritashvili was thrown from the track, will be raised.

Sport fans are turning their attention to Canada for the start of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Qualifying is due to start in the ski jump competition on Friday, before the opening ceremony kicks off during the early hours of Saturday, UK time.

More than 2,500 athletes will compete for 86 medals during the 16-day Games.

But a lack of snow has been causing huge problems for organisers who've had to bring in extra snow from elsewhere to help cover some of the slopes.

Team GB doesn't have a brilliant track record at the Winter Olympics, winning just six medals over the past four Games.

But this year there are strong hopes of British success in the bobsleigh, skeleton and snowboarding events.

Team GB spokesman Andy Hunt said: "We're keen to mark the beginning of a new era for winter sports in Britain.

"It is extraordinary to have the number of athletes in the team that we do.

"We haven't set a specific medal target - our real target is for every athlete to achieve their personal best."