Safety for sliders at heart of $800,000 audit 

Whistler Sport Legacies to meet all recommendations at sliding centre

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The outgoing president and CEO of Whistler Sport Legacies said the $800,000 safety audit on the fastest track in the world will be a game-changer for sliding sports.

Paid for with leftover funds from the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games (VANOC), the same monies that are currently underwriting a $1.7 million upgrade to the track, the safety audit is "good value" according to Keith Bennett.

"It's a significant step forward to how any other track in the world is managed," said Bennett, who is retiring in less than three weeks. "It's a significant step up in these sports. We're committed to doing this as part of our continuing safety practices and for us, I would say, yes, it's a game changer."

The report details 40 recommendations with the ultimate goal of improving athlete safety. The audit comes out of recommendations in the BC Coroner's report on the death of 21-year-old Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili during a training run at the Whistler Sliding Centre on the opening day of the 2010 Olympic Games.

More than half, 29 recommendations, are aimed at Whistler's track operations.

Bennett said Whistler Sport Legacies (WSL) will be implementing all 29 of those recommendations, and it will help the international sliding federations meet the remaining 11 recommendations.

Included is a recommendation that WSL install the standard safety barrier system at all corners and locations along the length of the track where there is no control on the free flowing path of the sled.

A lot of the work on safety barriers has been done in the last two years, said Bennett.

"Significant safety barriers have been put up right from day one but they've been augmented over the years, particularly over the last two years as we've taken over the track," he said. "It has been taken care of but it's part of our continuous monitoring process that if we see anything or observe anything that might indicate we need more safety barriers, we'll do that immediately."

Another recommendation is to create a more stable line from corner 12 until the entry of corner 13 including lessening the impact of the designed bump put in place as a feature to challenge the sliders.

"They recommended that we move it," said Bennett. "We've done that."

The safety audit also addresses processes and safety training at the Whistler Sliding Centre, specifically developing a protocol for incident reporting and implementing automated record keeping of all incidents.

WSL has invested in an electronic track management system that covers track policies and procedures, competency of workers, and incident reporting, among other things.

When asked how much the recommendations have cost Whistler Sport Legacies, which has relied on millions in stop-gap funding from the province for the past two years with more promised for the next three years, Bennett explained that much has been covered in annual operational expenditures.

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