Most of the critical recommendations made in a safety audit of the Whistler Sliding Centre released Monday (Dec. 3) are directed at the international sliding sport federations, despite the majority of the 40 total suggestions being made to track operator Whistler Sport Legacies (WSL).
The audit, recommended by the B.C. Coroners Service in its report on the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili on the opening day of the 2010 Olympics, calls for the International Luge Federation (FIL) and International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (FIBT) to develop “formal criteria” that establishes when an athlete is competent enough to compete on a specific track.
“There is no regulation in either (federation’s) documents describing the progression of an athlete through the different start locations to the top of a track, or the number of runs taken as a measure of competency to travel down a track safely,” reads the audit in its list of conclusions.
That recommendation is noteworthy when considering that FIL cited driver error in Kumaritashvili’s fatal accident, while the Coroner’s Report concluded that the Georgian’s inexperience on the Whistler track was “a significant disadvantage, as far as safety is concerned.”
The audit, completed by Calgary’s Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), “confirms the facility’s design followed the guidelines set by the sliding sport International Federations, and that all other additional safety measures recommended as a result of the B.C. Coroner’s Report from September 2010 have been met,” said a Monday release from WSL.
The 350-page report took 18 months for SAIT to compile. Twenty-nine of the recommendations are directed at track operator Whistler Sport Legacies (WSL), while the other 11 pertain to the FIL and FIBT.
“Safety is our top priority and we will continue to take all possible steps to ensure the safety of athletes, the public, spectators and track workers. Whistler Sport Legacies is implementing all 29 recommendations for the Whistler Sliding Centre to ensure the best and safest possible experience for all who use and visit the track,” said Keith Bennett, WSL president, in the release. “We have also offered our full support to the International Federations with the implementation of the remaining 11 recommendations.”
The audit also recommends that WSL install a safety barrier system at all points along the track “where there is no control on the free flowing path of the sled.” A further suggestion is made that WSL work with the FIL and FIBT to place visual indicators along the track to eliminate the “white tube” effect experienced by sliders going down the track.
On the aspect of track design, the audit suggests a minor alteration allowing a more stable line between the exit of corner 12 and the entry to corner 13, plus fine-tuning the entry to corner 16 to allow athletes a better choice of line going through Thunderbird, the track’s final turn.
The audit further recommends that track staff be trained for incident investigation and maintain record-keeping of all track incidents and near-misses.
Among some of the other recommendations directed at the FIL and FIBT, the audit calls upon the federations to provide better guidelines to track designers beyond maximum g-forces and safe speeds, while also requesting they develop a more detailed procedure for homologation.
SAIT’s comprehensive study was the first of its kind, requiring 3-D scan of the track, trajectory modeling, a study of in-track incidents and more. An analysis of more than 43,000 runs down the track found that less than 0.5 per cent resulted in an injury, with less than half of those requiring treatment at the Whistler Health Care Centre.
Download a copy of the audit at the link above. See more on this story in Thursday’s (Dec. 6) edition of The Question.