PK Micheil Saakaschwili

© IOC, VANOC

VANCOUVER, Feb 13 – Comments from Georgian President Mikheil SAAKASHVILI (GEO) and figure skater Otar JAPARIDZE (GEO) during a press conference at the Main Press Centre on Saturday.

Mikheil SAAKASHVILI (GEO) – president of Georgia

On making contact with the parents of deceased Luge athlete Nodar KUMARITASHVILI (GEO):

„I spoke a few hours ago to his parents. They told me that Nodar called them certainly before his tragic accident to tell them that his parents would be proud of him. He is coming from an area that is traditional for winter sports for many decades. His father was a lugeman, his uncle who was his trainer, was before one of the trainers of the French team and also is a luger.“

On the decision of the Georgian team to continue to compete at the Vancouver Games:

„I think whatever happened yesterday [Friday], the decision of Georgian athletes to continue with competition, it was the very right one because the Olympic movement is all about perseverance. It’s about unbroken spirit. It’s about future and strength. No matter what their tragedy, it’s about being the future. It’s about carrying on.“

On Georgia’s plans to commemorate Nodar KUMARITASHVILI (GEO):

„What we are thinking to do now is to build a new track in his hometown named after him because he had to train for all these years in different European countries for lack of adequate facilities (in Georgia).“

On whether he believes Nodar KUMARITASHVILI (GEO) had enough experience to race on the Olympic track:

„One thing I know for sure is that no sports mistake is supposed to lead to a death. No sports mistake is supposed to be fatal. Mistakes do happen in sport, but we are talking about sports where there is competitiveness, where there is danger, but we should avoid whatever cause of death could be.“

„Questions were asked about this place (Whistler sliding track). There were some suggestions that the wall should have been higher there (site of accident) because there was eventuality of this happening. Good news is that they’ve built it now, but I think the best news would be in the future, listen more to the grievances of sportsmen, listen more to the sensitivities and we don’t have to do things in the aftermath.“

On whether he believes there was negligence on the part of FIL or VANOC:

„I have not said that at all. I did not say there was negligence. It’s precisely up to the inquiry to determine what has happened, but I heard this on television, that this (accident) was because of human error, and I believe that any human error should not lead to the death of an athlete.“

On Georgia’s new generation of winter athletes:

„I am incredibly proud of the new generation, not only of this (Olympic) team but in many international competitions. These are young people who have this aspiring spirit and strength to compete.

Otar JAPARIDZE (GEO) – Figure Skating

On the team’s reaction to the death of Nodar KUMARITASHVILI (GEO):

„Of course we are all in big shock from what happened yesterday. This is the lowest, but at the same time the highest point of our careers because of the compassion and the solidarity that we felt from everyone around us. Despite this tragic event our team will carry on with the dream of Nodar and compete in his honour.“

„On behalf of Nodar and the Georgian nation, me and our team, we will try to show our best performance in the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.“