The head of the Georgian Dream coalition has announced that the country’s athletes must take part in the 2014 Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi, in stark contrast to President Saakashvili’s previous calls for a boycott.“Georgia must take part in the Olympics and as a neighbor it must do all for the Olympics to run peacefully and without any excesses,”
Bidzina Ivanishvili announced.
The statement was another step to reconciliation with Russia taken by Ivanishvili. The winner of the recent parliamentary poll has built his political program on President Saakashvili’s numerous blunders, including the strife with northern neighbor Russia that Saakashvili turned into a military conflict by attacking the pro-Russian republic of South Ossetia in 2008.
After losing the five-day August War, Saakashvili became even more bitter and criticized Russia on every possible occasion. When the preparations for the 2014 winter Olympics in Sochi commenced, Saakashvili called upon the national Olympic committee to boycott the event. He cited alleged security problems and also suggested that modern Russian authorities should answer for the so-called “genocide of Circassian people” – the resettlement of certain mountain tribes that took place in the 19th century as the Tsarist government tightened control over the region.
Other top officials from Saakashvili’s administration went further, claiming that Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia and Abkhazia were “occupying forces” that violated the principles of the Olympic Movement and calling for “all democratic countries” to join the boycott of the Sochi Olympics.
Georgia also officially requested that the International Olympics Committee reconsider its decision on the venue of 2014 Winter Games, but the request was refused.
Saakashvili also did almost everything possible to bar his opponent Ivanishvili from the polls. Georgian Dream was prosecuted for providing Georgians with access to television channels that did not fall under government control and Ivanishvili himself was stripped of Georgian citizenship, thus legally forbidding him to take any part in public politics, including even donations.
These measures proved futile as Georgian Dream won in the October 1 parliamentary poll garnering almost 45 per cent of the vote against 40 per cent for Saakashvili’s United National Movement.
On Tuesday, Saakashvili’s press service reported that the president had returned Georgian citizenship to Ivanishvili.