IOC praises "fantastic" performances

By Karolos Grohmann

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - The Vancouver Olympics have been marked by outstanding athletic achievements and an organizing committee which responded well to early mishaps, the International Olympic Committee said on Sunday.

With the closing ceremony of the February 12-28 Games later on Sunday, IOC President Jacques Rogge also said the death of a Georgian luger on the sliding track at the start of the Olympics would forever cast a shadow on the Games.

"It would be unfair to the athletes and the organizers not to express our gratitude for the fantastic performances of the athletes. It was also an excellent performance from the organizing committee," he said.

Warm weather and early operational blunders marked the days leading up the Games as the warmest January on record wreaked havoc with preparations in the mountain venues.

Rogge said, though, that apart from teething problems which affect every Games, the Vancouver Olympics will be remembered for the enthusiastic local support.

"Vancouver had extraordinary embrace, something I have never seen on this scale again," Rogge told reporters in his closing news conference, adding that the Games would also leave "a very positive legacy" with infrastructure works and stadiums.


The Games' start was marred on the opening day when 21-year-old Nodar Kumaritashvili crashed and died in a training run.

"The death of their fellow athlete will never be forgotten," Rogge said. "It will always cast a shadow on the Olympics."

He defended the actions of the International Luge Federation to continue with the competition, despite widespread criticism that a preliminary investigation which gave the green light to race again was done too quickly.

"I think in general the proper actions were taken," Rogge said. "I think the handling from the human point of view was correct."

Rogge is due to deliver his verdict on the success of the Games in his speech at the closing ceremony.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)