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)
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.
“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.