Olympics under a cloud after tragic death
Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili has been killed in a training accident at the Winter Olympics, the International Olympic Committee confirmed.
Kumaritashvili was airlifted to hospital after crashing near the end of the track at the Whistler Sliding Center.
He went over the wall of the track and appeared to hit a steel pole near the finish line.
With the opening ceremony hours away, IOC president Jacques Rogge said the death “clearly casts a shadow over these Games”.
Rescue officials rushed to the scene and performed chest compressions as well as mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Kumaritashvili was airlifted to hospital with what were described at the time as life-threatening injuries.
Footage of the accident appeared on YouTube in the immediate aftermath but was then taken down.
“We are all in deep shock, we don't know what to do. We don't know whether to take part in the opening ceremony or even the Olympic Games themselves,” delegation head Irakly Japaridze said.
It was unclear how fast 21-year-old Kumaritashvili was going at the time of the crash, although many sliders have reached speeds in excess of 90 mph on the track, which is considered to be the fastest in the world.
Luge training was suspended indefinitely after the incident and team captains from each nation were asked to attend a meeting.
Kumaritashvili competed in five World Cup races this season and finished 44th in the world standings.
Earlier Italian gold medal favourite Armin Zoggeler crashed, losing control of his sled also around curve 11.
Zoggeler came off his sled and slid on his back down several curves before coming to a halt and walking away.
British skeleton's performance director, Andi Schmid, said a lack of track time for athletes in the run-up to the Games had increased the risk of accidents.
The Canadian organisers have been criticised for limiting access to other teams during the build-up to the Games in order to favour home competitors.
“I would say especially for speed sports you need to have more access to tracks and whoever organises the Olympics needs to offer that,” said Schmid during preparations for the Games.
“Not only so that everyone has a fair chance but also because of the danger.
“We need to be careful so that these sports stay great action sports and don't become dangerous killer sports.”