Anger in Georgia as body returns

The body of luger Nodar Kumaritashvili was brought home from the Vancouver Winter Olympics to be met with anger and grief in a quiet winter resort town in Georgia.


Villagers gathered in silence at dawn as his coffin, draped in the red-and-white Georgian flag, was carried into the family home nestled in the dramatic mountain forests of Bakuriani, 180 km (112 miles) west of capital, Tbilisi.

The 21-year-old died on Friday on a training run hours before the opening ceremony of the Vancouver Olympics when he lost control of his sled and was propelled over a short barrier into unpadded vertical supports at 90 miles per hour.

His death cast a pall over the Games and raised questions over the safety of the lightning-fast luge track.

The International Luge Federation and Games organisers VANOC said the track was safe and blamed human error for the death.

But they subsequently raised the barrier at the fatal bend and shortened the track to cut its speed.

Georgians are angry at the findings.

"Any athlete can make a mistake, but this mistake should not result in death. This is sport, not gladiators," said family friend Givi Panjakidze, standing below a large photograph of Kumaritashvili hanging from the wall of the house.

"Whatever mistake he made, he shouldn't have been thrown out of the track. He should have stayed inside."

Inside, Kumaritashvili's mother and sister leant weeping over the open coffin. Kumaritashvili will be buried on Saturday.

President Mikheil Saakashvili, who was present in Vancouver when Kumaritashvili died, has said Georgia will build a sliding centre in Bakuriani and name it after the luger.

Saakashvili said on Saturday: "With all due respect... one thing I know for sure us that no sports mistake is supposed to lead to death."

Kumaritashvili's father David, himself a former luger, has said he cannot bear to watch the video of the accident that has been broadcast around the world.

"He had trained on that track before," he said outside the family home.

"He told me it was very difficult. He was not afraid, but he told me, 'Father, it's a difficult section'. He was not afraid, he was strong."

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