Luger’s body arrives home in Georgia as grieving family prepares for burial
BAKURIANI ( AP) — The body of the Georgian luger killed during a practice run at the Vancouver Olympics arrived Wednesday at his hometown, where his griefstricken mother threw herself on his coffin and cried: “ Why have I survived you?”
Nodar Kumaritashvili’s body arrived in a flag-draped coffin at the Georgian capital’s airport before dawn, met by relatives and onlookers. The 21-year-old is to be buried Saturday at a churchyard in Bakuriani, a village of about 1,500 located in one of Georgia’s most popular winter sports regions.
Then it was taken to the family home in Bakuriani, where a wake was held. His mother, Dodo Kharazishvili, threw herself on the casket; later an ambulance team was called to treat her.
Kumaritashvili was killed during Friday practice when he lost control of his sled and slammed into a trackside steel pole at nearly 145 kilometres an hour. Olympic and luge federation officials blamed the accident on the athlete, saying he was late in coming out of the next-to-last turn and failed to compensate.
Concerns about the course, the world’s fastest, had been raised for months. Many worried that the US$100 million-plus venue was too technically demanding, and that only Canada’s sliders would have enough time to adapt to it during practice.
At the wake, hundreds of mourners flocked to the Kumaritashvili house, on a street that local authorities have renamed in Kumaritashvili’s honour. Many struggled to contain their tears.
Among the mourners was Levan Gureshidze, a fellow Olympic luger who grew up and trained with Kumaritashvili but withdrew from the Olympics after his friend’s death. He said he could not bear to compete after the accident that took his team- mate’s life.
“How could I take part in competition after that?” he said, tears filling his eyes.
Another athlete from Bakuriani, Alpine skier Iason Abramashvili, chose to stay in Vancouver.
“He cried, he was under terrible stress, but he finally chose to stay and compete in Nodar’s memory,” said the skier’s father, Valiko Abramashvili.
Hundreds of mourners flocked to the Kumaritashvilis’ house for the wake.
The athlete’s coach and uncle, Felix Kumaritashvili, blamed the death on organizers. “ The main reason of his death is that the retaining wall was low,” he said.
He added that shades put on the track by organizers without advance warning also may have contributed to the tragedy.
“ Without any preliminary warning they put shades on the track while Nodar was sliding,” he said. “Because of the shades he
could not see the track before
him, he could not see the curve.”
Dodo Kharazishvili, centre, mother of Nodar Kumaritashvili, the Georgian luger killed in a practice run at the Olympics, is assisted by relatives in Bakuriani, Georgia, Wednesday, as his father David Kumaritashvili stands at right. The body of the Georgian luger has been brought to his hometown in the Caucasus Mountains for burial.