Politicized Sport and Threats from Governmental Officials
09 August, 2012
Politicized Sport and Threats from Governmental Officials

 

How an Olympian furtively returned to Georgia

An unprecedented incident took place in London which is gripped by Olympic fever. A Georgian Olympian judo player Betkil Shukvani accuses the Georgian Authorities of political persecution.

 

“They did not forgive me that before leaving for the Olympics, I visited Bidzina Ivanishvili and promised him to dedicate my victory to him. If the ruling political force stays in power after the elections, I’ll leave the National Judo Team,” – says Shukvani, who failed to win

the award for his country in the last minute.

It should be noted that Georgian Journal received a letter from Vano Chkhartishvili, former official of Shevardnadze era and later a member of the Saakashvili team. It turns out he was a first hand witness to the oppression unleashed against our Olympian in London. Below we present the entire press-release sent to us from Chkhartishvili’s Press Center:

Vano Chkhartishvili offers help to threatened Georgian Olympian at London 2012

Mr. Vano Chkhartishvili, Georgian businessman living in London has offered to help Betkil Shukvani, after the Georgian Olympic star in judo claimed that he had been threatened by Georgia’s Deputy Sports Minister Giorgi Udesiani. The Minister arrived at the Olympic Village in London with a group of men and wanted to ‘talk’ to Mr Shukvani, who had publicly voiced support for the opposition group, Georgian Dream.

Mr Shukvani fled the village fearing for his safety and secretly returned to Tbilisi where he recounted being intimidated by other athletes when he boarded the plane on the outward journey from Tbilisi to London.

Mr Chkhartishvili said, “I am very disappointed to hear about the intimidation of a Georgian Olympian. This is a time to support our sports people who are flying the flag for Georgia at London 2012. It is another example of intolerance by the Government of any kind of opposition.

“Clearly Georgia has no hope of ever entering the European Union and joining the family of democratic nations whilst we hear such stories of intimidation. A mature democracy is tolerant of different views and opinions and welcomes diversity. It is embarrassing to hear about Government officials visiting sports people in London to argue politics with them.

“It is no coincidence that Betkil’s judo match is the only event involving a Georgian not to be televised by the state media in Georgia. It is an indictment of the tight control of the media by the Government that they are so petty to refuse to air the performance of a Georgian at the world’s most important sporting event.

“Given the level of intimidation against Betkil, I will do all that I can to help him so that he can concentrate on his sporting career, without fear of reprisals. If he wishes to speak out, he should be allowed to speak out.”

Betkil Shukvani: “I saw Gia Udesiani, President of Shooting Sports Federation, first in the airport. He was gazing at me aggressively and provocatively, swearing loudly towards Georgian Dream in an attempt to insult and incite me to respond. Guys advised me to disregard him. So did I. Having no official status in the Georgian delegation, he nevertheless managed to approach and insult me in London before the play. I was extremely tensed. Add to it, referees behaved dishonestly. I was scoring high but given low scores instead. In the second competition my finger started to bleed. On such occasions, fight should be suspended to allow treatment of the injured sportsman. The referee however did not suspend the play. All these broke me psychologically and eventually I lost to my rival. I approached Georgian Sports Minister Lado Vardzelashvili and asked him to stand by my rights. “You too have seen how they oppressed me,” – I said. He did not spare even a reply for me. I left him unnerved. I locked myself in the room for 10 hours when a member of the Georgian delegation visited me to inform that drunken Udesiani wanted to see me down in the hall together with ten other men. In another second, Udesiani himself called him on the phone and, swearing to my person, shouted at him to bring me down quickly. What do you think my meeting with him and ten guys wound mean? So I preferred to go away peacefully. I packed up and went down to the first floor. On seeing Udesiani in the hall with accompanying people, I went back and made it into the yard through a window on the second floor. Then my Croatian friend helped me to buy a ticket. This is how I furtively returned to Georgia.

P.S. This incident stirred up serious debates with foul words in social networks. The subject of the criticism and swearing was basically Sports Minister Lado Vardzelashvili who accompanied Georgian sportsmen in London. A considerable portion of the public even demanded via the internet to dismiss the Minister. Yet, the Authorities have not reacted at all. Thus, the Sports Minister remains on his post and continues his work just like Gia Udesiani does, whose behavior became known to almost entire world.

 

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