by Ralph Routon
Yes, there will be luge events at the 2010 Winter Olympics, starting Saturday as scheduled at the Whistler Sliding Center with the first two of four runs in the men's singles event.
But the course has been shortened slightly by the international luge federation (FIL) in response to the fatal crash Friday that killed luger Nodar Kumaritashvili from the Nation of Georgia.
Svein Romstad of Atlanta, secretary general/CEO of luge's world governing body, announced this morning that the men would now use the women's start line, with the women and doubles luge also moving slightly lower. Romstad said workers also had made overnight revisions to the track's final turn, where Kumaritashvili catapulted off the course and into a steel pole.
"We're making these changes more because of the emotions than anything else," Romstad said in a news conference shown at all Olympic venues in the Vancouver area.
Asked about the track's speeds, projected initially to be around 80-85 mph but in reality closer to 95 mph during training runs this week, Romstad said that lugers had taken about 5,000 runs in two years since the course was built without a catastrophe.
"Yes, there were some troubles (earlier Friday with other lugers), but this is a fast sport," Romstad said. "There was nothing out of the ordinary that would signal a need for changes. The crash ratio was on par with other tracks."
Romstad said that Kumaritashvili, despite being at the Olympics for the first time, had completed 26 training runs successfully at Whistler. He also had competed in five World Cup competitions this season and was ranked 44th in the world.