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February 18, 2010
"You'll be proud of me, dad, just wait and see": Nodar Kumaritashvili

An honour guard escorts the body of Georgian luger Noda Kumaritashvili as it arrives in the capital Tblisi. Photo/ RFE/RLGeorgian Service
by David Kakabadze, Director RFE/RL Georgian Service

PRAGUE, February 18, 2010 - “You’ll be proud of me, dad, just wait and see!”

David Kumaritashvili, 46, father of the slain Georgian luger, killed during practice just hours before the start of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, fights back tears as he recalls his last phone conversation with his son, Nodar.

Pride is probably not the right word to describe feelings which occupy the Kumaritashvilis these days. A cloud of despair has descended on Bakuriani and its residents ever since the news of Nodar’s fatal accident reached this picturesque mountain resort of about 1,500.

“The life here will never be the same,” says David Kokoshvili, a childhood friend of Kumaritashvili’s.

The body of the 21-year-old arrived yesterday in the Georgian capital Tbilisi by a plane from Munich today before dawn, met by parents, relatives and friends, as well as hundreds of fans and supporters. From the airport it was taken by car 200 kilometers westwards, to his hometown, where a wake was held. Hundreds of mourners poured into the yard of Kumaritashvilis’ family house, the façade of which was decorated by a life-size picture of Nodar.

“Why have I survived you, my son?" These were the only words, Dodo Kharazishvili, Nodar’s mother, who threw herself on the coffin, was able to say. Women could not stop crying, men struggled to contain their tears.

Father Serapime, Archbishop of Borjomi and Bakuriani, announced that Nodar Kumaritashvili will be buried on Saturday, 20 February, in the yard of the Holy Christmas Church, which is still under construction.

Local authorities decided to rename one of Bakuriani streets in Kumaritashvili's honor.

And – something that is probably the most appropriate given the circumstances – a representative of the Georgian government revealed a plan to construct a luge course in Bakuriani, which will be named after the killed athlete.

Finally, hundreds of emails are being sent to Georgian media outlets, to the National Olympic Committee from all over the world, with the request to pass them on to the family of the deceased.

One of them, by Jennifer from Concord, Massachussets (USA), reads: “Nodar's family should know that Americans regard him as a hero. He gave his life to protect other athletes from similar accidents. The federations are saying his death was his own fault; but then they implement many new safety measures (and assert they are only for "emotional reasons"). We all see through these excuses. Nodar's family deserves the truth: that the track had poor design -- especially those low walls which could not contain the sled. Nodar was scared, but he intended he would finish his race, like a champion. In the process, he made the supreme sacrifice, and the result is that others will be saved. There is no greater heroism than this. Nodar's name, his memory, and his courage deserve to be regarded with honor throughout the world, forever. My deepest sympathy to the family of this brave young man. Nodar is a champion, for all of time.”

Maybe Nodar was right when he said to his father: “You’ll be proud of me, dad, just wait and see!”

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