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17 Feb, 2010 19:36

Georgian luger’s death sparks controversy

The body of the Georgian Olympian who tragically died ahead of the Vancouver Winter Games has arrived home. The death of the luge competitor has raised serious questions over safety measures.

The plane carrying the body of Nodar Kumaritashvili, who died at the age of 21, arrived at Tbilisi International Airport at 4 a.m. local time. Despite the early hour, hundreds of mourners met the plane.

However, that was just the beginning of the sad journey. Kumaritashvili will be buried on Saturday in his home town of Bakuriani, a ski resort with a population of about 1,500 people.

The luger’s death sparked concern over the safety of the sport and also the track at the Whistler Sliding Center, where the tragedy occurred.

The International Luge Federation has said that it was the sportsman’s mistake which led to the accident.

However, Nodar Kumaritashvili’s coach and uncle, Felix Kumaritashvili, is sure that the organizers are responsible for the disaster.

"The main reason for his death is that the retaining wall was low," he said.

Felix Kumaritashvili added that shades put on the track without prior warning right before Nodar’s run may have also contributed to the tragedy.

“They should not have put on the shades. Because of them the athlete does not see what is going on in front of him, and cannot see the beginning of the turn,” he added.

The coach said that the argument that “Nodar was not ready is absurd. It is one of the arguments they urgently presented to acquit themselves.”

Nodar Kumaritashvili died in a training accident after going off the track and flying into a metal pole at 140 kilometers per hour.