Published February 28, 2010
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said Sunday the Vancouver Olympics should be remembered for its great atmosphere and sports performances and not just the death of a Georgian athlete in a luge crash.
"The games started in very difficult conditions with the tragic death of Nodar. ... No one will forget that," Rogge said at news conference before the closing ceremony. "However, you have to be fair to the organizers, you have to be fair to the Canadians, and you have to be fair to athletes and judge the games on their own merit — without forgetting what happened before."
Nodar Kumaritashvili died a few hours before the opening ceremony on Feb. 12 when he lost control of his sled and flew off the luge track and into a steel pole during a training run.
Rogge said the death affected him "very strongly," and he didn't sleep for two nights.
"In my profession, you are used to seeing people pass away, but for acceptable reasons, because of disease, because of age," said Rogge, who was a practicing physician. "And when you see a young athlete pursuing his dream of participating in the Olympic Games and end up in such an accident, it hurts."
The international luge federation said the crash was the result of human error, although changes were subsequently made to the track and the lugers began their races from a lower starting spot during the competition. The organizers of the next Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, already have said their track won't be as fast as the one in Vancouver.
Rogge was asked how the Olympic movement's motto of "swifter, higher, stronger" meshes with the inherent dangers of many winter sports.
"It's not the IOC pushing the boundaries," Rogge said. "The boundaries are pushed mostly by the ambition of the athletes themselves, and we have at times to protect them from their own risk-taking.
"We have a moral responsibility in making sure that the games are as safe as possible. We will never be able to eliminate all risks, and athletes who are engaged in competition are taking these risks also, but they must be sure we have taken the measures to diminish the risks the maximum."