IOC President Jacques Rogge and VANOC CEO John Furlong choked back tears early this afternoon as they confirmed the death of 21-year-old Georgian luge athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili after a horrific crash at the Whistler Sliding Centre during training this morning.
"This is a very sad day. The IOC is in deep mourning," Rogge said during a press conference in Vancouver.
"I have no words to say what we feel."
Though reporters asked about how the death might affect Olympic luge competition, which is set to begin tomorrow (Saturday Feb. 13) at 5 p.m. with Kumaritashvili's category of men's singles, Rogge would only say that an investigation is underway.
When a report is received, decisions will be made on whether "actions" need to be taken, Rogge said.
The results of the investigation will be released to the public when they are known, Furlong said.
Some commentators are already arguing that all Olympic luge competition should be cancelled on the deadly Whistler track, which has seen a series of crashes this week during training runs.
When asked whether the track is perhaps too difficult, Rogge said he would be prepared to debate such issues - but not now.
"This is a time for sorrow," he said.
Kumaritashvili was an "incredibly spirited young person," Furlong said. "(He) came to Canada with hopes and dreams that this would be a magnificent occasion in his life."
With just hours to go before the Games' Opening Ceremony, Furlong said he wasn't prepared to have to share news of such a "tragic accident."
"We are heartbroken beyond words," he said. "My team has been devastated by this."
Kumaritashvili was in the final corner of the Whistler track during his second training run this morning when he lost control, flew over the side of the track and crashed into a steel pole. He was estimated to be travelling at over 140 kilometres an hour.
The top speed reached in men's luge on the Whistler Sliding Centre track is 153.93 km/hour.
Rescue crews performed CPR immediately and he was moved by stretcher into an ambulance. According to an IOC statement, doctors were unable to revive the young athlete and he died in hospital.
Rogge said IOC officials have been in contact with Kumaritashvili's family, the Georgian National Olympic Committee (NOC) and the Georgian president, who is in Vancouver for the Games. The IOC and VANOC are working to support the family and team members in whatever way they can.
Rogge said the Georgian NOC is currently in deliberations about whether to compete in the 2010 Games but no decisions have yet been made.