Throngs of mourners turned out on Saturday for a funeral of 21-year-old Georgian luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili, who died in a crash during practice run hours before the Vancouver Olympics on February 12.
Kumaritashvili was laid to rest in a yard of a local church in his hometown Bakuriani, a ski resort 190 kilometers west of Tbilisi.
President Saakashvili, dressed in Georgian Olympic team’s jacket, led an official delegation of lawmakers and government members to the funeral service in Bakuriani.
Any suggestion that the tragic accident was a result of Kumaritashvili’s error is strongly rejected and condemned in Georgia with officials speaking of lack of safety norms at Whistler Sliding Centre.
“It’s a fact that safety norms have been violated. Apart of the fact that speed was too high, the athlete should not have flown off the track,” Giorgi Natsvlishvili, president of the Georgian National Olympic Committee, said at a news conference in Tbilisi on February 18.
An official police investigation is ongoing in Canada to establish the cause the luger’s tragic death.
The International Luge Federation and Vancouver Olympic officials said after initial probe that the crash was the result of the athlete’s error and that “there was no indication that the accident was caused by deficiencies in the track.” However, it was decided to modify the track and a wooden wall was erected at final curve where Kumaritashvili crashed and flew off the track.
The late athlete’s fellow luger and a friend Levan Gureshidze, who should have been the first Georgian athlete to compete at the Vancouver Olympics, withdrew from the games. Gureshidze, along with president of Georgian National Olympic Committee and Kumaritashvili’s coach and uncle Felix Kumaritashvili, accompanied the late athlete’s body back to Georgia.
Georgia's remaining team consists of three alpine skiers, three figure skaters.