The opening of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games was set to be one of the best days of Besso Gotsadze's life.
As a volunteer with the Georgian delegation, Gotsadze sported his blue jacket, eagerly representing his homeland in his new country of Canada.
But one call changed everything.
On Feb. 12, 2010, Gotsadze was informed that there had been an accident at the Whistler Sliding Centre involving luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, one member of the eight-athlete contingent representing Georgia at the Games. Gotsadze remembered being summoned to an information desk where he was informed of the news. A mix of emotions overcame him.
"I will always remember this look. It was like sadness, something, I don't know, but I found out something happened," he recalled. "I went to the hospital and there is blood, blood, blood.
"The one thing that was keeping me up was knowing that I have to be strong because there were young people and other people. I had to keep them up, supporting them."
At the opening ceremony, which went on as planned later in the day, Gotsadze received nothing but warmth from the Canadians he encountered.
Gotsadze, who came to Canada in 2006 and applied to volunteer with the Georgian delegation the following year, said being accepted for the position was one of his happiest moments. He came to know Kumaritashvili through his work with the delegation and remembers him fondly.
On Wednesday, a small group of Georgians plan to head up to the Whistler Sliding Centre with a Georgian priest to hold a short ceremony at the crash site.
Gotsadze said the Georgian community in the Lower Mainland has grown since 2010, explaining that it was around 40 people at the time of the Games but now consists of roughly 100, many of who count themselves among the Diaspora of Georgia in BC group. Though he's not sure of exact numbers, Gotsadze anticipates at many as possible will come up to Whistler for the celebration of life. Konstantin Kavtaradze, the Georgian ambassador to Canada, will be in attendance.
Afterwards, the group will join a march through the village organized by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) advocate and first responder Terrance Kosikar at the Dubh Linn Gate at noon. The march, led by Indigenous drummers from Culture Saves Lives, will end at Kumaritashvili's memorial site at Whistler Olympic Plaza.
"I hope to see the whole Whistler community," Kosikar said. "For us to be able to march through the village with some drumming, some good vibes and everybody waving their flags, dinging their cowbells, bringing out their red mittens and blue suits, and walk in honour of the athletes, ultimately, the goal is to do this walk, say prayer, and pay our respects."
At the site, Gotsadze, Kavtaradze and Kosikar will all say a few words.
"What gives me the most warmth in my heart is knowing that the Georgians will be there," Kosikar said. "We will do this every single year until they bury me, and we will honour the legacy of Nodar Kumaritashvili."
With an eye on accentuating any positive side effects of Kumaritashvili's death, Gotsadze and the Georgian community also plan to support Kosikar at an event in Vancouver during PTSD Awareness Month in June. On June 6, Kosikar will hold Tire'd of the Stigma at Jack Poole Plaza from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in support of Camp My Way, a program designed to help first responders with PTSD and their families. The event will wrap up Kosikar's 30-day effort of flipping a 400-pound (181-kg) tractor tire up Brandywine Glacier.
Kosikar has been in contact with the Kumaritashvili family and hopes they can attend the event in June.
For more information, visit campmyway.com.
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