What Georgian luger’s death means for the 2014 Winter Games

February 7, 2011

Few sports will be examined as closely as luge as the Sochi Olympics approach.

That's why delays in construction of the Sochi sliding track have disquieted some in the sliding community.

"You'd like to homologate the track in 2012 and hold a test event in 2013 – and with 2012 being a year away from now ... I'm not saying it can't be done, but I am saying I don't think it has been done on this timetable before," said Terry Gudzowsky, a Calgary-based former bobsledder and official with the sports governing body, the FIBT, who is serving as an adviser to the Sochi Games.

This one," Mr. Gudzowsky added, "will be behind by a bit."

The Sochi Games have been plagued by allegations of fraud and construction delays, and just this past week the chief executive of Olimpstroi, the Sochi Olympic development agency, resigned after the Russian news agency Interfax reported six senior members of Olimpstroi are facing fraud charges involving more than $750,000 in an employment scam.

The Sochi track is the first built since the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili during training on the eve of the 2010 Vancouver Games, and as such it will be under more scrutiny given the fact that initial projections for the speed of the Whistler track were off.

The FIL, the international governing body for luge, and the FIBT have mandated that the track must not be as fast as Whistler's.

Mr. Gudzowsky said that was never going to be an issue, since the site chosen – although similar to Whistler in terms of narrowness and steepness – contains three uphill sections.

"We've calculated the speed to be about 135 [kilometres an hour], compared to the high 140s for Whistler and the mid-140s for St. Moritz," Gudzowsky said.

This summer, Canada's top bobsleigh driver, Lyndon Rush, just laughed when he was asked when he expected to get a run in on the track in Sochi. In fact, it's a running joke in the sliding community that the competition may need to be held elsewhere.

"I've been told they have broken ground or are about to break ground," said Canadian luge coach Wolfgang Staudinger. "I know the Russians. They are masters of improvisation."

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