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Celebration of life in Whistler for Georgian luger who died on opening day of 2010 Olympics

In this Friday, Feb. 12, 2010 file photo, the sled belonging to Nodar Kumaritashvili of Georgia sits empty on the track just after he crashed during a training run for the men's singles luge at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Whistler, B.C. A new study says the luge track used at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, where an athlete died on the opening day of the Games, was not significantly "more dangerous" than other venues. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ AP/Michael Sohn

Games had not even begun before tragedy struck

Nodar Kumaritashvili lost control of his sled on training run

Georgian official says it's important to keep his name alive

WHISTLER (NEWS 1130) – Ten years to the day of when a Georgian luger was killed during a training run at the 2010 Olympics, a celebration of his life was held Wednesday in Whistler.

Nodar Kumaritashvili died the morning of the opening ceremonies in Vancouver when he collided with an ice wall in a corner of the notoriously fast track. He was ejected from the track and hit a metal post.

He died instantly, according to a coroner’s report.

Kumaritashvili was 21 years old.

Besso Gotsadze was a blue-jacket volunteer with the Georgian team and assigned as a liaison to Kumaritashvilli at the Winter Games.

Gotsadze attended the celebration of life to pay his respects and said the young luger was a great ambassador for his country and a friendly professional just beginning his career.

Gotsadze recalls the Georgian team drew strength form the Canadians who offered their support at the opening ceremonies.

“It was, ya, the hardest time, you know,” he said.

Gotsadze said it’s important to keep Kumaritashvilli’s name alive and that the Georgian ambassador to Canada flew in from Ottawa to attend the celebration of life.

It was held at the Whistler Sliding Centre and followed by a procession through the village.

Canada was initially criticized for granting foreign athletes only limited training access to the luge track prior to the Winter Games.

The sport’s officials modified the starts for luge disciplines less than 24 hours after Kumaritashvili’s death.

Safety modifications to the track were also made.

Before his crash, Kumaritashvili had taken 25 runs on the track. Canadian sliders averaged 250.

VANOC chief executive John Furlong said several years after the Olympics that his greatest regret was losing Kumaritashvili on the first day of the Games.

“It’s something you can never forget. It’s like losing your own child.”