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In Georgia, even sporting world is fair game for politics

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, July 13
Athletes’ involvement in politics has become one of the actual issues in the election year. Opposition parties regularly blame the authorities in having an influence on athletes and using them against their political opponents. However, on its behalf, the opposition coalition Georgian Dream is also significantly linked with this method– especially with regard to their majoritarian list.

The special appeal signed by 130 active and veteran athletes reads that local athletes are mainly used for strategic aims by the ruling administration. “Special groups consisting of athletes are being formed that are being used against the political opponents of the National Movement. Therefore, those athletes, who naturally possess different political attitudes, are under pressure from the government’s side,” the appeal sent to the diplomatic corps reads.

Another message reflected in the appeal concerns a possible civil controversy: “Political representations and the violation of athletes’ rights must be concluded; the formation of punitive groups from athletes must also be stopped,” the appeal reads.

It should be mentioned that the appeal was prepared by the sport thematic group of the Georgian Dream coalition.

As a former trainer of Georgian national judo team, Shota Khabareli mentioned he had a small business which was sequestered due to his anti-governmental views. Such claims have also been frequently voiced by famous Georgian footballer, Kakhi Kaladze, Olympic champion, Zurab Zviadauri and professional chess player, Nona Gaprindashvili.

The coalition itself has already named three athletes as the majoritarian candidates, all of them world, European or Olympic champions in wrestling. They are: Davit Kevkhishvili in Kvareli, Luka Kurtanidze in Lagodekhi and Zurab Zviadauri in Akhmeta. The Kakheti information centre states that an additional wrestler, Revaz Mindorashvili, will be named in Gurjaani.

The Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs of Georgia stated that they felt obliged to express their opinion about the above-mentioned appeal.

“We think that all the athletes are first of all citizens of their country and have the right to have and to express their civil or political opinions,” the Ministry said and denied any kind of pressure on athletes.

The ministry also noted that all who signed the statement were members of a certain political coalition and their statement is part of the coalition’s election campaign. “They all have the right to be the part of the campaign, but it is a pity that they have chosen to mislead society,” the Ministry statement reads.

The ministry also suggested that all interested sides should check to see that those athletes are still receiving stipend appointed by the state for their sports achievements. As for the negative aspects of athletes’ involvement in politics, the ministry outlined that such participation in the field will have a negative effect on the sporting discipline. “In many cases, dedication most of the time to other commitments violates the athletes and team mode. This inevitably will negatively reflect on the achievements of Georgian sports,” the Ministry states.