Neutral expert to review safety of 2014 luge track
A ``neutral expert'' will review the safety of the luge track for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia to avoid a repeat of the fatal crash that overshadowed the opening of the Vancouver Games.
Gilbert Felli, the International Olympic Committee's executive director for the Olympic Games, said on Monday that the organization was in talks with sports federations about the design and safety of the track being built for the luge and bobsled competition in Sochi.
``Following what happened in Vancouver, we have tried to understand with the (international federations) how they could verify all the calculations of the engineers,'' Felli said in a conference call. ``We are in the process with them at the moment to see how this design can be reviewed by a neutral expert.''
Felli said the IOC expects the luge and bobsled federations to submit the name of the outside expert by the end of the week.
The review was ordered in the wake of the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, who was killed in a high-speed training crash a few hours before the Vancouver opening ceremony on Feb. 12.
Kumaritashvili flew into a steel pole after losing control of his sled on the final curve of the lightning-fast ice at the Whistler Sliding Center.
Designs for the Sochi course are being finalized by Udo Gurgel, the veteran German engineer who also created the Whistler course. Luge leaders are determined to restrict racers to 85 mph in Sochi.
Felli reiterated that the ``field of play'' issues in all Olympic sports are the responsibility of the international federations.
Felli spoke as IOC and Vancouver officials prepared to head to Sochi for a ``debrief'' session with Russian Olympic organizers in the Black Sea coastal resort. The program, which runs from June 7-10, is intended to pass on information and advice to the next host city on all aspects of the preparation and organization of the games.
One issue that will definitely be discussed is how to prepare for weather problems. Warm temperatures and a lack of snow played havoc with the schedule in Vancouver, particularly for the freestyle and snowboard events at Cypress Mountain.
The sessions will also be attended by organizers of the 2012 London Olympics and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, as well as the three cities bidding for the 2018 Winter Games - Annecy, France; Munich, Germany; and Pyeongchang, South Korea.
``It's really an opportunity for games organizers to learn and to innovate,'' Felli said. ``They should not try to copy what Vancouver has done. They may do things differently within their own context and own culture.''