NPR's Howard Berkes, who is covering the Vancouver Winter Olympics, reports that the luge and bobsled track in Whistler on which an athlete from the nation of Georgia was killed Friday has been a specific concern some of the Olympic athletes, especially because it's reputedly the world's fastest sliding track.
In a discussion with All Things Considered host Melissa Block, Howard said:
"Well there have been a number of accidents on this track. Four, five luge sliders have had accidents on this track. None this serious, of course.
And there have been some complaints about this track. In fact, an Australian, Hannah Campbell-Pegg, the other day said that she thinks that maybe they're pushing it a little too much with this track. She said "To what extent are we just little lemmings that they just throw down this track and we're crash test dummies. I mean" she said "this is our lives."
There is some competition for making the fastest track in the world. These tracks are built for the Olympics. What track builders try to do is build them in such a way where if there is an accident, if a slider goes off the sled, they stay on the track. So there are walls that rise up and go over the track so they don't flip out the top. And the walls on the side are supposed to be high enough so that they wouldn't flip out of the track. In this case, that wasn't good enough. And one of the things I'm sure they'll be looking at is what can they do to extend that wall now so that it is higher and at least keeps a slider in the track if there's an accident.
Update at 7:20 a.m. ET, Feb. 13. Here's the audio of Howard's conversation with Melissa about the tragedy: