Luge leaders promise safety at Sochi Olympic track

Organizers of the 2014 Sochi Olympics will be “extra cautious”

building a sliding center after originally planning the world’s

fastest and most difficult track, a top Russian luge official said

Saturday.

Genady Rodionov told The Associated Press that the sport “must

try to exclude” incidents like the high-speed crash that killed

Nodar Kumaritashvili on the day the Vancouver Games opened Feb.

12.

“For the whole luge family, it’s hard to bear what has

happened,” said Rodionov, vice president of the Russian federation

that is working with Sochi organizers to create the Olympic sliding

venue. “We’re extra cautious in our calculations, analyzing

everything.”

Valery Silakov, the former Russian team head coach and now

federation president, said the track will still be “technically

very demanding.”

Designs are being finished by Udo Gurgel, the veteran German

engineer who also created the Whistler course.

Rodionov and Silakov spoke outside of International Luge

Federation (FIL) meetings that helped complete the sport’s

investigation into Kumaritashvili’s fatal crash on the $110 million

Whistler track, which proved faster than intended.

The 21-year-old Georgian lost control of his sled on the final

curve at nearly 90 mph and was thrown clear of the ice before

slamming into a trackside steel support pillar.

Luge leaders, who will deliver their investigation report Monday

to the International Olympic Committee, are determined to restrict

racers to 85 mph at Sochi.

FIL president Josef Fendt said he wanted to avoid repeating the

experience at Whistler, where the track proved faster than when it

opened in 2008.

“We need this speed limit while planning a track; we can’t do

anything when a track is already being built,” Fendt told The AP

on Saturday.

Fendt raised his concerns about plans for Sochi one year ago,

weeks after Germany’s Felix Loch clocked almost 96 mph during a

test event at Whistler. Loch would eventually win Olympic gold.

“That was the reason I sent that letter to Sochi after hearing

they were planning to build not only the most difficult, but the

fastest track as well,” Fendt said. “The (Sochi) track was

designed for speed over (89 mph). That was too much in our

opinion.”

Luge officials will soon visit the proposed sliding center,

which also will stage Olympic bobsled and skeleton racing, in the

mountain resort of Krasnaya Polyana.

The venue is 24 miles from the Black Sea city of Sochi, which

hosts the FIL Congress scheduled in June.

“We will be able to show the site. We will invite people from

government as well and lots of media,” said Rodionov, who is

organizing the congress where each luge nation can vote on proposed

changes that emerge from this weekend’s sessions.

In Russia, winter sports leaders are ready to present their

Olympic project after meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin

last month.

“We decided that we should start building as early as possible.

By the end of 2011, we plan to be able to have competitions on the

new track,” Silakov said. “We will do our utmost to get it ready

in time.”