Georgian government said it will take “appropriate decision” if Russia “excessively politicizes” 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.
Tbilisi’s reaction was in response to Russia’s decision to make a Russian military pilot, Ivan Nechayev, who received hero’s award for safely landing damaged aircraft during the August 2008 war with Georgia, as one of those 13,990 torchbearers, who are part of a 123-day Olympic torch relay across Russia before it reaches Sochi in February. Nechayev was among those ten torchbearers who passed the flame around the Kremlin on October 6.
“It is well understood for everyone that against the background of occupation of Georgian regions it was extremely difficult to take decision in favor of participation of the Georgian Olympic team [in the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games]. Despite of that the Georgian Olympic Committee with the support of the Georgian government expressed good will and, guided by the importance of consistent improvement in Georgian-Russian relations, took the decision in favor of participation in the 2014 Sochi Olympics,” the Georgian government said in a written statement on October 7.
“It is regrettable that Russia cannot or does not appraise appropriately Georgia’s good will; opposite trends are observed,” the statement reads.
The government said that while Georgia is willing to “de-politicize” the Olympic Games, Russia, on the contrary, tries to use these Games for “the political purposes.”
“No other explanation can be found to the fact that Russia selected ‘2008 war hero pilot’ as one of the Olympic torchbearers. Obviously it is the right of any state to choose its heroes, but it is also obvious that a country willing to normalize relations with neighboring state will not be acting provocatively like this,” the Georgian government said.
The statement also reads that the government cannot either ignore the fact that “problems related to the Sochi Olympics and occupation line are intensifying” ahead of the presidential election in Georgia.
While noting that it remains committed to its chosen course of normalizing ties with Russia, the government also said: “From now on we will be observing with special attention organizational events of the Sochi Olympics. If Georgia eventually ascertains that excessive politicization of sporting events is taking place and they are purposefully used against Georgia, the Georgian authorities will take appropriate decision for the purpose of defending dignity and interests of its citizens.”
“We hope that the International Olympic Committee and governments of states, participating in the Olympic Games, will pay due attention to such an important issues,” the government said.
Commenting on Moscow’s decision on selecting Nechayev as one of the torchbearers, President Saakashvili said on October 6 that “Putin will not miss a chance to maximally humiliate us, proceeding from Russian imperial inferiority complex.” He said Georgia’s participation in “this propagandistic event is very, very controversial” and called for reviewing decision.
The Georgian National Olympic Committee said in a statement on October 7 that it hopes “no such misunderstanding” will occur in the future and it won’t be forced to revise its decision on participation in the Sochi Olympics.