Whistler Sport Legacies (WSL) officials say they should have little difficulty adhering to the 29 recommendations directed at them in the safety audit of the Whistler Sliding Centre released Monday (Dec. 3).
WSL CEO Keith Bennett said the Olympic venue operators intend to work with the two sliding sport federations to implement all of the suggestions made in the audit, some of which has already been done.
“The majority of the recommendations are really about … formalizing operations,” said Bennett. “To that end, we’ve put in place a track management system … that sort of ties together all of the incident tracking, policies, procedures, staff training, and it allow us to access that database to constantly monitor what’s going on.”
A further 11 recommendations from the audit are directed at the international sliding sport federations.
The audit, recommended by the B.C. Coroners Service in its report on Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili’s fatal accident during the 2010 Olympics, calls for the International Luge Federation (FIL) and International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (FIBT) to develop “formal criteria” establishing 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.”
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.
“The recommendations contained in the Safety Audit reflect the direction that our organization is already heading in,” said FIL secretary general Svein Romstad in a Monday release.
“In fact, we have already implemented some of the advice and follow-up on the other recommendations is work in progress.”
The audit also suggests the federations and WSL work together to install “visual indicators” along the track to eliminate the “white tube” effect experienced by track users.
Further track profile changes are recommended, including the removal of a hump between corners 12 and 13 and a fine-tuning of the entrance to corner 16.
Bennett said an extensive system of barriers has been placed since VANOC handed the keys to the sliding centre to WSL in the summer of 2010, but that track staff is constantly monitoring the need for more. He noted that some of the track profile work suggested at the transition of corners 12 and 13 has already been completed.
“We have done some of that work within the bounds of what we can do within the concrete without grinding into the rebar. So the hump is gone and the whole corner has been opened up a bit,” said Bennett, adding that WSL will meet with the sport federations and track designer in the near future to decide how to address other track profile recommendations.
The 350-page report, completed by Calgary’s Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), took 18 months to compile.
The study was the first of its kind, requiring 3-D scan of the track, trajectory modelling, review 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 injury, with less than half of those requiring treatment.
The top starts have never been used for luge competition since Kumaritashvili died. Bennett said the new entry ramp under construction, which will be the new ladies’ luge start, is “substantially completed,” while the adjacent start house building will be complete in time to host the FIL World Luge Championships in February.