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  • Luge World Cup Back to Whistler


    (ATR) The top executive of the International Luge Federation tells Around the Rings that the world cup circuit is sliding through the bumpy global economy.
    Whistler Sliding Center hosted the 2010 Olympics and a 2011-12 World Cup. Next up is the 2013 World Champs. (ATR)

    FIL secretary general Svein Romstad said contracts with sponsors and broadcasters to expire in 2012 have been renewed. He ultimately wants the nine-stop tour to expand and use most of the world’s 16 top-caliber tracks.

    “Once again it is a financial issue,” Romstad told ATR during the weekend's World Cup stop in Whistler. “We were at seven and eight, we went back to our sponsors and TV and got them to agree to nine. Maybe next time we try 10.”

    The Whistler Sliding Center, built for the 2010 Winter Olympics, hosted the second stop on the 2011-2012 World Cup on Friday and Saturday. The track will also host the world championships in 2013.

    “The athletes, they love coming over here, the biggest challenge is from a federation point of view,” Romstad said. “We’re paying for the television, we’re bringing everything to the table, a race is roughly about 250,000 Euros (US$335,000) to put on.”

    North America remains a growth market. An estimated 500 people attended Friday’s doubles and men’s races. The tour continues next weekend in Calgary at the 1988 track.
    FIL secretary general Svein Romstad. (Getty Images)

    “Everything takes time, this track has an enormous potential to be a center,” Romstad told ATR. “You’re in the middle of a ski resort, you have a luge event or you’re going skiing, we’re going to lose out on most of them, but we feel we can capture more and more as time goes by.”

    The men started at the women’s gate Friday and the women used the junior gate Saturday, a protocol in place since the Feb. 12, 2010 training death of 21-year-old Georgian Nodar Kumaritashvili.

    Kumaritashvili catapulted off his sled in the final curve and fatally struck a pole on the morning of the opening ceremony. Emails published last January indicated VANOC CEO John Furlong feared in March 2009 that the high speeds could result in a serious injury or worse after realizing that the track was faster than it was designed to be.

    When the British Columbia Coroners Service ruled Kumaritashvili’s death an accident, it ordered track owner Whistler Legacies Society to conduct a safety audit. A draft by the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology has been submitted. Results are expected to be published in the first quarter of 2012.
    The flag of Georgia marks the spot where Nodar Kumaritashvili fatally crashed. (ATR)

    The flag of the Republic of Georgia is displayed at the track office and a small version was placed at the spot where Kumaritashvili crashed, but no Georgian sliders are competing. Romstad said the Georgian team is “rebuilding” and training in Europe. It is receiving financial assistance from FIL connected to a donation made for a memorial track in Kumaritashvili’s hometown of Bakuriani.

    Meetings between FIL and the Georgians most recently happened in Lausanne in November, Romstad said.

    “We put a proposal together, how it can be done,” Romstad told ATR. “We’re still working on the details. It’s moving forward, what we have done in the meantime as a federation we have setup a foundation, for lack of a better word, to help the Georgians out. While this track issue is being squared away we have set up a program with them for the future long-term participation.”

    Romstad expects Georgians to compete at future events in Whistler.

    Written and reported in Whistler by Bob Mackin.

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