"We were warned and did nothing. . . " UPDATED

Friday, February 11, CBC News: the fifth estate presents “Death at the Olympics” with new revelations about the fatal crash of Nodar Kumaritashvili, the Georgian luger who died at the 2010 Winter Olympics. See preview here along with copies of the emails. (Note: Thursday 8pm links were inoperative)

Read Jeff Lee’s story at the Vancouver Sun

The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympics was so worried about how the public would view an upcoming CBC investigative piece into the fatal luge accident at the Whistler Sliding Centre a year ago that last week it leaked documents to media competitors at The Globe and Mail and CTV.

The documents were the same ones the CBC obtained under Freedom of Information from the B.C. Coroner’s Service, which was looking into the death of Nodar Kumaritashvili, the Georgian luger who died on the opening day of the Olympics when his sled went out of control and slammed into a steel pole.

In the documents was an internal e-mail from VANOC CEO John Furlong to senior staff in March, 2009 in which he expressed concern about a letter Josef Fendt, the president of the International Luge Federation, who worried about the excessive speeds on the Whistler track.

Published February 6, 2011:

CBC News item, Feb 06/2010
From:        John Fulong
Sent:         March 24, 20009
Subject:    RE: Speeds on the track in Whistler

… the track is in their view too fast and someone could get badly hurt. An athlete gets badly injured or worse and I think the case could be made we were warned and did nothing. That said I’m not sure where the exit sign or way out is on this.

Our legal guys should review at least.

CBC News Item, Feb 12/2010:

“Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died Friday in a horrific crash in an Olympic training run at Whistler, B.C., just hours before the Games opening ceremony.

“Kumaritashvili was coming around the final 270-degree turn, where speeds approach 140 kilometres an hour, when he flipped off his sled and flew into a metal pole. . .

“We are heartbroken beyond words to be sitting here,” Furlong said. “It’s not something that I had prepared for, or ever thought I would need to be prepared for.”

“Furlong expressed his condolences to the friends and family of Kumaritashvili, “who came to Vancouver to follow his Olympic dream.”

“VANOC will conduct a complete investigation, he said.

“The accident is tragic. It will be investigated, and when we know the substance of what happened, you will know it.”

With this CBC Fifth Estate story about to break, John Furlong’s handlers went into damage control and quickly put out a story grabbing headlines on Liberal friendly media such as Global TV and the NPA’s City Caucus blog. In a preview from Furlong’s upcoming biography written by columnist Gary Mason, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is criticized for grabbing a share of Furlong’s spotlight during a flame ceremony in Greece and for taking political advantage of the NPA’s Olympic Athletes’ Village train wreck.

VANOC will need more than this self-serving leak from Furlong’s book if they hope to change the subject on future newscasts. Fifth Estate has a history of being accurate and they have a good deal of Olympics related correspondence under examination.

Categories: Olympics, VANOC

Tagged as: ,

13 replies »

  1. So six days later, our illustrious leaders lied to the world, and said it was an inexperienced athlete.

    That “explanation” was uttered within hours by VANOC the day the Georgian luger died.

    I am so ashamed of being Canadian. No longer are we going to be able to travel the world proudly.


  2. Ooops, sent my earlier entry when I should have gone to bed. Too sleepy to notice that I had the wrong date. It wasn't 6 days later. It was 11 months earlier.

    Still… that VANOC's first utterances were to blame the luger, is accurate.

    I remember those first statements very well. A few hours later, the VANOC and Olympic Games spin doctors figured out it was better to not take such a hasty stand, and they took a “wait and see when the investigation is finished” line.



    There was nothing to do, the Olympics were anointed by god (or gods) and all was good.

    Furlong (and his cadre of spin doctors) ensured the goodness of the games for all the international media. Furlong is well on his way to Sainthood – move over Mother Teresa.

    The winter Olympics are god's gift to the elites, but of course paid for by cutting programs and increasing the financial burden on the poor.

    In Canada, the poor are a subclass of people, barely tolerated by the Canadian elites.

    The Luger's death and over 100 dead dogs in Whistler are a mere footnote to an over rated sports event, run by elites, and championed by the mainstream media, who fancy themselves the media for the elite.

    There is no shame left in Canada, because our politicians have no morals, thus the country is run without a moral compass.


  4. “The Games must go on!”

    I found the original “explanation” dubious, at best; and inappropriate, hasty, and viciously disrespectful. I also thought it look like major CYA. I would much rather have been wrong.

    The CBC does some things very well (others not well at all).


  5. BC has been an, embarrassing, corrupt cesspool, ever since Campbell has been in office. After reading Laila Yuiles blog, on Falcon's follies. I said, it was time the BC people invited this rotten BC Liberal government to leave our province, Egyptian style. What a sickening outfit of scoundrels.


  6. Norm, I am a little concerned about this, I think you may have taken the quote out of context. Perhaps some of your trademark research is required to see who is responsible for the speed of the track. I think it might be the International Luge organization that takes over the venue and gives its seal of approval for the state of the track. I believe that John Furlong deferred to the Luge organization who had no suggestions on changes that should be made. Surely the responsibility to a certain degree needs to rest with the riders/users of the track. How could John Furlong be held responsible, I doubt he has ever “luged” in his life!! Some fact checking on this might be appropriate unless of course you are just trying to stir up the anti-corporate sentiment out there. G


  7. Sorry but you cannot square this circle:

    Furlong said. “It's not something that I had prepared for, or ever thought I would need to be prepared for.”

    That statement is shown to be untrue. But wait, CBC Fifth Estate has more to come.


  8. The BC MSM are gearing up for the one year anniversary of the Games. They're already breathlessly promoting it as the Games that defined us as a nation. That kind of hype is a little over the top, to put it mildly. So the timing of this CBC investigation must be unsettling to Furlong, Campbell, and Co to say the least. A dead luger and 100 dead sled dogs will be the legacy of these games. And we haven't even talked about the cost yet! Can hardly wait to see what happens when the stuff really hits the fan over the shadow tolls!


  9. Norm, He was talking about an athlete dying during preparation for the Olympic games on the day the games opened, how could you [possibly prepare for that!!!! I think you are avoiding discussion about the emotion associated with all this by separating the reality of the event hitting when it did with a memo written over a year earlier. I sure can't remember everything I wrote in an email a year ago, can you? In my opinion, this individual did more for Canada and the Canadian identity over that month last year than anyone else has ever done in such a short period of time. This is a cruel way to support an agenda of corporate indifference. G


  10. Safety on the Whistler track (and every other sliding track) was a prime consideration, extensively discussed in the design phase. Many people worried about high speeds, athletes included. Design choices were made that proved inadequate. More was done to the physical plant immediately after Kumaritashvili's death. Certainly the responsibility was collective between VANOC, IOC and the sport federation, but Furlong, contrary to his public statements, was aware that safety was an issue. I'm sure it was a painful time for the CEO but this is a hit to his reputation. No question about that.


  11. The death of the Luger was not the accident itself, but coming into violent contact with unprotected steel beams.

    Later the naked beams were covered by 3/4 inch plywood to prevent the same sort of accident happening again.


    Where was/is Worksafe BC on this issue?


  12. You can blame this on inexperience if you choose but that doesn't absolve you of responsibility. If that were the case why would an inexperienced person be allowed to participate? This person was allowed to compete at this level by someone!
    The blame for this should fall squarely on Vanoc who hosted these games as it was their jurisdiction to insure the venues were safe and not a threat to participating athletes.
    This young man died and if that should cause sleepless nights to the likes of John Furlong so be it! I am sure this young man's father has been so insulted that never again will he be able to live a life untainted or relieved, if egomaniacs like vanoc or John Furlong go a few nights without sleep so be it.
    I don't see any humbleness in them writing books and beating their chests but this one young athlete and son will never have the chance to speak.


  13. “I sure can't remember everything I wrote in an email a year ago, can you?”

    And that that's why the BC Liberals had to shred the BC Rail documents during the May 2009 Election, and continue to.


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