Monday, February 24, 2014

The Mystique of the Whistler Sliding Centre


The Mystique of the Whistler Sliding Centre

By Sora Kazesawa
The Daily Magi
October 16, 2063

The Whistler Sliding Centre (French: Centre des sports de glisse de Whistler) is a Canadian bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton track located in Whistler, British Columbia, that is 125 km (78 mi) north of Vancouver. The centre is part of the Whistler Blackcomb resort, which comprises two ski mountains separated by Fitzsimmons Creek. Located on the lowermost slope of the northern mountain (Blackcomb Mountain), Whistler Sliding Centre hosted the bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton (an individual sport in which the racer slides down the track head first) competitions for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Design work started in late 2004 with construction taking place from June 2005 to December 2007. Bobsledders Pierre Lueders and Justin Kripps of Canada took the first run on the track on 19 December 2007. Certification took place in March 2008 with over 200 runs from six different start houses (the place where the sleds start their runs), and was approved both by the International Bobsleigh and Tobogganing Federation (FIBT) and the International Luge Federation (FIL). Training runs took place in late 2008 in preparation for the World Cup events in all three sports in early 2009. World Cup competitions were held in February 2009 for bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton. The top speed for all World Cup events set by German luger Felix Loch at 153.98 km/h (95.68 mph). In late 2009, more training took place in preparation for the Winter Olympics.

On 12 February 2010, the day of the Olympic opening ceremonies, Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili was killed during a training run while reportedly going 143.3 km/h (89.0 mph). This resulted in the men's singles event being moved to the women's singles and men's doubles start house while both the women's singles and men's doubles event were moved to the junior start house. During actual luge competition at the 2010 Winter Olympics, there were only two crashes, which resulted in one withdrawal. Skeleton races on 18–19 February had no crashes though two skeleton racers were disqualified for technical reasons. Bobsleigh competitions had crashes during all three events. This resulted in supplemental training for both the two-woman and the four-man event following crashes during the two-man event. Modifications were made to the track after the two-man event to lessen the frequency of crashes as well. A 20-page report was released by the FIL to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on 12 April 2010 and to the public on FIL's website on 19 April 2010 regarding Kumaritashvili's death. Safety concerns at Whistler have affected the track design for the Sliding Center Sanki that will be used for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. This includes track simulation and mapping to reduce top speeds by 6 to 9 km/h (3.7 to 5.6 mph) for the Sochi track.

The FIL published their reports in regards to Kumaritashvili's death following the FIL Commissions Meeting in St. Leonhard, for both sport and technical commissions on 9–11 April 2010. This report was prepared by Romstad and Claire DelNegro, FIL Vice-President Sport Artificial Track. The 20-page report was released by the FIL to the IOC on 12 April 2010 and was released on FIL's website to the public on 19 April 2010. Documents released in February 2011 showed that the speed of the course was a concern for several years before Kumaritashvili's death.

Constructed on part of First Nations spiritual grounds, the track won two provincial concrete construction awards in 2008 while the refrigeration plant earned Canada's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design "gold" certification two years later.

To promote sustainability, the site was selected directly adjacent to an already used part of a major ski area. It was also designed to minimize vegetation and the ecological footprint in the area. For energy efficiency, trees were retained to cast shade with weather protection and a shading system used to cover parts of the track. The track itself is painted white to maintain low temperatures while minimizing energy demand on the refrigeration system. Waste heat from the refrigeration plant is captured and reused to heat buildings on-site, and could provide other heat uses in the future. Any wood waste created from site clearing activities during venue construction was composted for reuse. Other on-site buildings also followed similar green building design principles.

In 2008, the Sliding Centre received two British Columbia Ready-Mixed Concrete Association Awards for Excellence in Concrete Construction. The first award was for Public Works while the second one was for the Century Award. On 22 August 2006, VANOC targeted Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Canada by applying for "silver" green building certification for the 708 m2 (7,620 sq ft) refrigeration plant building. The refrigeration plant received "gold" certification level on 2 February 2010.

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