They wanted it both ways: The track was safe before, but it was even safer now.When you have the top luger in the world crashing and everyone else was having trouble, it isn't just human error - in this case Nodar Kumaritashvili who crashed and flew off his luge and off the track and dying after striking a metal pole.
"The opening of the track conforms to the standard that has been pretty much followed in Olympic sports since 1964," said Svein Romstad, secretary general of the International Luge Federation. "We have not experienced this in 35 years. We are unfamiliar with how to deal with this. You have a technical component, you have an emotional component."
They blew the technical component on Friday, when lugers - many of them relatively inexperienced, by international standards - were forced to travel at speeds up to 96 mph down a twisting course at the Whistler Sliding Centre. Then they blew the emotional component yesterday, by forcing the same sliders to start their training runs on the morning after the death of a competitor.
"It happened in front of me yesterday," said Shiva Kannan Palan Keshavan of India. "I've never seen anything like it before. I was telling myself not to believe it. It's fresh in our hearts today. We can't compete with the same joy."
They raced again anyway, wearing black stripes on their helmets to honor Kumaritashvili. And since this is a sport that thrives on adrenaline and no small amount of machismo, several officials were complaining about the less risky, slower course and arguing that sliders such as Kumaritashvili should not be part of the Olympics.
"Definitely something has to be considered to tighten the rules," said Wolfgang Staudinger, the Canadian coach. "Looking back to 2002, we had exotic sliders and this could have happened at previous Games. (Kumaritashvili) has to make a left there (on Curve 16) and I don't know why he went right. He was completely off line."
There are problems with this thinking, beyond the harsh, dismissive attitude. The Canadians had limited the amount of training runs by foreigners, slowing their learning curve. And you can't pretend this sport is a global event, worthy of Olympic inclusion, then invite to the Winter Games only a few sliders from the five top luging nations.
There are those who think that the track's safety is in line with other tracks around the world, but what's troubling is that the accident rate that the track has been rising in the past year - probably as more athletes from around the world came to practice on the Olympic track:
The Whistler track's incredible speed and its safety have been an issue since it opened two years ago, and Kumaritashvili's death brings it into further question. Kumaritashvili was not the only athlete to crash during Friday's training runs. Armin Zoeggeler, the 2002 and 2006 gold medalist from Italy, had a rare crash on the 11th curve. Romania's Violeta Stramaturaru crashed and was knocked unconscious. The final curve where Kumaritashvili crashed is a complete U-turn that is so notorious lugers call it the "50-50 turn," because you have a 50-50 chance of crashing there.
According to figures released by the FIL, there have been more than 5,000 luge runs on the track -- Kumaritashvili had 26 runs here, 16 from the men's start -- and officials said the crash rate is not unusual, about 3 percent. Including all starting spots -- men's, women's, junior and novice -- in all events, there have been more than 30,000 runs on the track and 340 sled turnovers that required emergency medical response. The crash rate, however, has nearly quadrupled in the past year.