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Abkhazian and South Ossetian de-facto leaders not officially invited, but still in Sochi

By Ana Robakidze
Monday, February 10
Georgia is among the 80 countries participating in the Sochi Olympic Games 2014.

Considering the political situation between the two countries, the Georgian government did not send any officials to Sochi. Therefore, the delegation includes only the representatives of the National Olympic Committee and four athletes.

"It is a great joy for our athletes to be here and participate," Georgia's Olympic Committee President Leri Khabelov said after arriving in Sochi. Ho also added that relations between Russia and Georgia have been improving recently.

The first to start the participation in the Olympic Games will be Nino Tsiklauri. She will compete in women's slalom and giant slalom, starting February 18th. Other members of the Olympic team are figure skater Elene Gedevanishvili, who placed 14th at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Iason Abramashvili who placed 29th in men's giant slalom at the 2006 Turin Games and Aleksi Beniaidze, who is making his Olympic debut.

Many Georgians opposed the decision to send the team to Sochi and claimed Georgia had to boycott the games. The Georgian government said that it was a tough decision to send the team, and warned Russia to refrain from “politicizing” the games and from taking any steps to bolster the independence claims of the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia during the ceremonies at the Winter Olympics.

However, great concern was caused by displaying the map of Georgia on a screen during the opening ceremony as the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia were covered in fog and it was impossible to clearly see the regions on the map.

Georgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Maia Panjikidze commented in Tbilisi that it would be wrong if the satellite photo is accepted as a provocation from the Russian side. However, she finds it hard to explain fog covering only breakaway regions of Georgia.

Confusion was caused also regarding the birthplace Skier Marika Pertakhia. The Georgian-born Pertakhia, who is representing Russia at the games, was born in the Gali district, in Abkhazia. In the official date published on the Sochi Olympic Games webpage, it was said that the athlete was born “in Russia, Gali district of the Republic of Abkhazia”.

After the subsequent reaction of the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the International Olympic Committee was informed regarding the issue and the Olympics’ webpage was updated. However, the information on the birthplace of Pertakhia was not amended, instead it was deleted completely.

Information that Abkhazian and South Ossetian de facto leaders had been invited to Sochi has been denied many times. However, according to the press offices of the de facto presidents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Alexander Ankvab and Leonid Tibilov attended the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. Reportedly, Talibov and Ankvab had a bilateral meeting in Sochi.

According to Tibilov’s spokesperson, the South Ossetian de-facto leader also met chairperson of Russia’s State Duma committee on CIS and Eurasian integration, Leonid Slutsky.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry is not going to react on the of de facto leaders’ visit to Sochi. According to Panjikidze, the official reaction from the government is not necessary at this point, as Talibov and Ankvab were not officially invited to the games either by Russia or by the International Olympic committee.