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Letter of condolence makes long journey to fallen luger’s family

Mayor Ken Melamed promises a permanent legacy for athlete

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Whistler will never forget Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili.

That was the promise made by Mayor Ken Melamed to the 21-year-old's family in a letter that was delivered by John Furlong, CEO of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games (VANOC), at the athlete's funeral in Bakuriani, Georgia this week.

"Following the closing of the 2010 Winter Games, we will begin detailed work in planning how Whistler will permanently recognize your son," wrote the mayor in a heartfelt letter on behalf of the whole community, that was translated into Georgian. "We hope one day you can see it."

He wrote of the temporary memorial in the village which is regularly visited and where people leave behind their prayers, their condolences in books, flowers, flags and candles.

Some of those offerings made the journey to Georgia this week along with the official letter.

"Our community has been so deeply saddened by what happened, but his tragic accident has brought us together to celebrate his life and honour his memory," wrote Mayor Melamed.

"As time moves on, know that there will be a memorial to him in Whistler and our community will never forget him nor his commitment to his sport. He is now part of our community's history."

Kumaritashvili died on a training run at the Whistler Sliding Centre on Feb. 12, the day of the opening ceremonies for the Olympics.

The B.C. Coroner's Service and the International Luge Federation are still investigating the accident, which forced changes to the competition, specifically moving the starts lower down the track.

Kumaritashvili's funeral was held on Tuesday, March 23, 40 days after his death, in line with the rites of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

Furlong was one of the officials who travelled to Georgia for the funeral, cutting short his time at the closing ceremonies in Whistler Sunday to make the long journey in order to pay his respects.

To honour the luger, his hometown is planning to build a sport facility, and possibly a luge track in Bakuriani.

The family will receive a death benefit from VANOC because his death was covered under a private health insurance program.

The permanent memorial for Kumaritashvili will be part of Whistler Medals Plaza, which will be transformed into a community gathering spot in the future.

 

 

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