Monday, April 19, 2010

Blame game not over

The much-anticipated report into the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili from the International Luge Federation was published at 3 a.m. Vancouver time on April 19.

Yeah, I woke up to be among the first to read it and write about it. Reporters who remained asleep didn't miss much. Maybe I was expecting too much from a typical European-based sports federation in self-preservation mode.

The 20-page document has few new revelations, no diagrams and no definitive timeline. (Note to FIL: a timeline should contain times. Your page 16 doesn't.) There is a photograph of Kumaritashvili on page 3 and kind words about the 21-year-old who died on the opening day of the 21st Winter Games. It details the donations to Kumaritashvili's family and does say that the family continues to wait for the VANOC insurance payment.

FIL continues to blame "driver error" and it describes how Kumaritashvili died. But it doesn't describe the why.

Tacked onto the story in the Telegraph by its Olympics editor Jacquelin Magnay is a fact box containing five unanswered questions.

Five unanswered questions
- Why was the steel pillar positioned directly next to the track and alongside a turn previously identified as dangerous?
- Why was the steel pillar unprotected without padding?
- Why wasn’t the track modified in the year before the Olympic Games when athletes had officially complained about the dangers?
- Why weren’t international sliders given more official practice time in the months leading up to the Games?
- Why did the International officials approve the track when excessive speed had already been identified as a problem?

Will the British Columbia Coroners Service enlighten us when it reports next month? Or will we have to wait for VANOC and FIL executives to testify in a Coroner's inquest or B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit?

This story is not over. As long as these questions remain, the sport of luge, the Whistler Sliding Centre and VANOC will live under a black cloud.

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