by Ralph Routon
A visibly shaken Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, confirmed the death Friday of luger Nodar Kumaritashvili from the former Soviet republic of Georgia, saying, "It is difficult to stay composed. Today is a very sad day."
In a planned news conference before the 2010 Winter Games opening ceremonies, Rogge appeared for only five minutes along with John Furlong, CEO of the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee.
Rogge said that officials from luge were meeting to discuss what actions to take as the result of the practice crash Friday morning that killed the 21-year-old luger. Kumaritashvili lost control and flew off the Whistler Sliding Center track at the final turn, slamming into an unpadded steel pole that apparently killed him instantly.
Furlong paid tribute to the Georgian athlete, saying: "He came to Canada with hopes and dreams that this would be a magnificent occasion in his life. As you've heard, he was in a tragic accident, and he has passed away. We are brokenhearted. It's not something I prepared for. We're devastated by this."
After the brief news conference, Rogge was scheduled to attend a reception honoring Vice President Joe Biden, representing the White House at the Olympics.
There was still no indication whether the death would affect plans for the opening ceremonies tonight at B.C. Place. Some reports suggest the luge events, scheduled to start Saturday with the first two runs of men's singles, might be delayed until later in the Games, and the men's event might be canceled.