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facebook.com/ georgiatoday

Issue no: 873

• AUGUST 26 - 29, 2016



In this week’s issue... Government to Finalize Marriage Definition after Elections NEWS PAGE 2

Bombs & Who Planted Them

FOCUS ON THE CITY Mayor Narmania is called to account for the cutting of trees in Tbilisi, refuses to quit PAGE 8

North Atlantic Council to Visit Georgia in September


Ex-PM Ivanishvili to Guest Host New TV Project POLITICS PAGE 6

Asking for the Moon: Ogden on Common (Military) Sense



he North Atlantic Council (NAC) will visit Georgia on September 7-8, Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili announced at a government meeting on Wednesday. The Council, which is chaired by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, will arrive on September 7 to attend a meeting of the NATO-Georgia Commission in the capital Tbilisi as well as a one-toone with Kvirikashvili. Continued on page 2


Exclusive Interview with Olympic Champion in Weightlifting, Lasha Talakhadze SPORTS PAGE 15




AUGUST 26 - 29, 2016

Government to Finalize Marriage Definition after Elections BY THEA MORRISON


rime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, stated at the Cabinet Session on Wednesday that the Government will countersign the President’s refusal to hold a national referendum that would constitutionally define marriage as a union of a man and woman. However, he said the Cabinet disagrees with the arguments provided by the President. President of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili, blocked the referendum bid on marriage definition on August 10, saying that Georgia's Civil Code already specifies marriage as “a voluntary union of a man and woman” and adding that the country’s existing legislation bans any move to change the constitution through a referendum. According to the President, when 20 percent of Georgia’s territory is occupied and two regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia are recognized as independent states by Russia, holding a referendum will give additional legal arguments to the occupying powers. Kvirikashvili stated that the argument that a referendum cannot be held due to the breach of territorial integrity of the country remains disputable. “We fully share the desire of the initiators of the referendum that the civil marriage is a voluntary union of a man and a woman,” said the PM, adding that the ruling party Georgian Dream (GD) was the first initiator of the constitutional amendment. According to Kvirikashvili, due to the boycott of various political forces in the current parliament, the amendments have not been finalized. However, he noted that a constitutional amendment on marriage definition would be introduced “by all means” after the October 8 Parliamentary elections. The PM also underlined that the argument accord-

Europe wants us the way we are, with our traditional values

A constitutional amendment on marriage definition will be introduced after the October 8 Parliamentary elections

ing to which striving towards Western civilization implied legalization of the same-sex marriage is pure speculation. “Europe wants us the way we are, with our traditional values,” he noted. The move to hold a referendum was first brought up by an activist group led by Alexander Bregadze, Soso Manjavidze and Zviad Tomaradze, who gathered 200,000 votes and asked the Central Election Commission (CEC) to register their request for a referendum. The CEC sent the approved bid to the President, who rejected it and sent his order to the Prime Minister for countersignature. The idea of constitutionally defining marriage as a union between a man and woman was first raised by the ruling Georgian Dream coalition. A draft resolution on amending the constitution was not put to a vote in May 2016 during its first reading due to a lack of quorum in the parliament.

North Atlantic Council to Visit Georgia in September Continued from page 1

“This showcases the North Atlantic Alliance‘s unparalleled support for Georgia,” Giorgi Kvirikashvili said. The NATO officials and Stoltenberg will also meet Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili and Parliamentary Chair David Usupashvili. The NATO-Georgian commission was first launched in September 2008, less than a month after Russia invaded Georgia in the five-day August War. "During the visit, the Warsaw Summit results may be discussed. The country's progress regarding

democratic and economic reforms will also be addressed. This will be a very important visit. The NAC is the main decision-making body in the NATO alliance, hence this visit carries particular importance," Kvirikashvili said. At the Warsaw Summit in early July, the Alliance pledged to help support Georgia’s crisis management capabilities and improvements in strategic communications, and said it would provide additional aid for the development of Georgia’s air defense and surveillance capabilities. During the visit, Stoltenberg is expected to deliver a speech at the National Library.




The Netherlands to Help Implementation of NATO-Georgia Substantial Package

South Ossetian Border Guards Seize Georgian Farmland Official Georgian and Dutch sides meet at the MFA Georgia



he Kingdom of the Netherlands will make its own contribution to the implementation of the NATOGeorgia Substantial Package (SNGP), the Georgian Foreign Ministry (MFA) says. The assistance, announced on August 24 by the Ambassador of the Netherlands to Georgia, Johannes Douma, involves financial

and know-how support to the planned Defense Institution Building School in Georgia, one of the aspects of SNGP. Throughout the notification meeting, the parties discussed issues of bilateral relations, as well as the progress achieved in the implementation of the SNGP. Deputy MFA Minister of Georgia, David Dondua, thanked Mr. Douma for the Netherlands’ important contribution and expressed his hope for the Dutch Government’s future support on Georgia’s EU Path.



eorgian farmworkers living near the contact line with the breakaway South Ossetia region claim Russian border guards are blocking their access to sections of farmland that lay on the Georgian side of the contact like that separates the rebel region from the rest of Georgia. Georgian news agency Interpressnews reported that uniformed gunmen appeared on the outskirts of the Gori Municipality village of Sobisi and started to harvest the crops of one of the resi-

dents living in the village. The gunmen said the agricultural area was a part of the Russian-occupied South Ossetia region and therefore under the jurisdiction of the separatist authorities in their self-declared capital Tskhinvali. "My family has owned this land for years. Of course, this is Georgian territory and under the control of the central government. However, the occupants (Russians) came to us last year and said that part of my land, 6 hectares, was within South Ossetia’s borders. I had been working there throughout the year; I spent a lot of money, and now they are stealing my crops. They don’t let me enter the area,” he said.

The Georgian government fought three wars against Russian-backed separatist forces in Abkhazia and South Ossetia between 1991 and 2008. Formal relations between Tbilisi and Moscow have been frozen since the Kremlin recognized South Ossetia and Georgia’s other Russian-occupied region Abkhazia as independent states. International law and the United Nations continue to state that the regions remain parts of Georgia. Russia continues to violate a 2008 ceasefire agreement by maintaining a massive military presence in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia by basing thousands of occupation forces in the two regions.




AUGUST 26 - 29, 2016

How About Just Making America Better?



hen Ronald Reagan won the presidency in 1980 and went on to redefine American conservativism, his message was hopeful. The country was in a temporary rut, but a brighter, better future was within reach. The State just

needed to remove artificial “barriers to progress” and let the individual reach his or her full potential. That kind of message doesn’t resonate these days. Many voters are cynical and pessimistic. They see America as a country on a downward slide. They’d rather hide in an idyllic past than leap into an exciting future. That’s essentially the message promoted by Donald Trump, the man who won the Republican Party’s presidential nomina-

tion with help from a nostalgic slogan: “Make America great again.” Things are bad now and they were good before, so we should have more of the old and less of the new. Before we ridicule Trump and his supporters, however, we should admit that people on both ends of the spectrum and from all walks of life are fed up with what they see as a dysfunctional political system and a floundering economy. “Make America great again” may belong to Mr. Trump, but simply the word “again” does enough to explain America’s current politics. Other politicians are finding success with similar messages. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders don’t share Trump’s longing for a whiter, more masculine era, but they often speak about an economic paradise lost. In The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism, esteemed conservative writer Yuval Levin diagnoses nostalgia as a disease afflicting the Republican Party and the country. He finished writing it while Trump’s nomination still sounded like an absurd fantasy, but his analysis has become only more relevant. The Left wants to turn the clock back to 1965, and the Right wants it to be forever 1981. In Levin’s words: “The Right wants unmitigated economic individualism but a return to common moral norms. The Left wants unrestrained moral relativism but economic consolidation. Both will need to come to terms with some uncomfortable realities of twenty-first century America.” That starts with accepting that the post-war order is dead and gone, and admitting that it died for real reasons:

the global conditions that buoyed America’s booming industrial economy no longer exist, and the era’s stifling social conformity got old a long time ago. The large factory has been replaced by the tech startup. A single mass culture has given way to countless subcultures, smaller groups of like-minded people that often transcend local communities. The bargaining power of workers has been replaced by that of the almighty consumer. And amidst all that deconsolidation, the federal government has gotten bigger and more centralized. As an ideological conservative with a preference for bottom-up solutions, Levin spots a contradiction. Rather than reforming public services to make them more local and more flexible, and thus better able to meet the needs of citizens in an unbundled society, the Democratic Party is focused on finding top-down solutions to what they consider to be nationwide problems. Levin’s solution is to accommodate America’s deconsolidation—to “seek diffusing, individualist remedies for the diseases most incident to a diffuse, individualist society”—by relying on the principle of subsidiarity. That means handing more power to the political bodies closest to the problems that government is working to solve. Examples include giving state and local governments more control over how tax dollars are spent, combatting soaring tuition costs through deregulation rather than by expanding federal student aid programs, and fixing America’s failing public schools by presenting parents with more choices. It also means reviving mediating institutions such as places of

worship, community organizations, and charities; the institutions that stand between families and the State, and in Levin’s view the ones most capable of addressing the problems facing America’s fragmented society. By restoring horizontal bonds, Americans will be better equipped to live fulfilling, successful lives in an era when confidence in the federal government is historically low. These ideas aren’t original, but Levin presents them with rare insight and precision. Even more so, he makes a compelling case for why America should wake from its nostalgia and instead make the best of what the present has to offer. In his view, there is a lot. Americans have more choices than their parents and grandparents even dreamed of, and the country’s economy is still dynamic, if much less secure. He focuses on building a better future, not longing for an idealized past. This book also has shortcomings. Levin is insensitive to concerns about income inequality, and only briefly mentions the (understandable) reasons why many Americans are averse to the kind of localism he prescribes. Many minorities, for example, see subsidiarity as paving the way for prejudiced local officials to deny them equal access to public services and legal protections. As a social conservative, Levin takes for granted the justice and utility of the traditional norms that govern private morality. Still, he’s one of the few intellectuals from either party willing to take responsibility for America’s problems—and to admit that his party needs to undergo major reform in order to become part of the solution.

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Bombs & Who Planted Them OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA


he briefing held last week by the State Security Service was like a thunderstorm on a clear sunny day. At a time when the population is busy meeting the political parties and discussing the ratings of the politicians, suddenly the Security Officer announced the foiling of a terrorist attack and the arrest of seven Georgian citizens who had been participating in it. More importantly, at the end of the meeting that same person announced sensational information: to a journalist’s question about where the terrorist act was originally planned, he answered – Ukraine. According to the map presented at the briefing, the terrorists aimed to blow up the gas pipeline near Saguramo village which transports Russian gas to Armenia. As for Ukraine, this country was named as the central place where the terrorist act was planned only because one of the detained suspects had visited the country often. The claim was followed by the expected political and judicial fuss, with the governmental and oppositional experts offering diametrically opposed ideas about the unsuccessful attack. The experts supporting the government have suspicions about the long term plans of the opposition, while the oppositional ones point out the lack of evidence and the possible pre-electoral intentions. For instance, expert Mamuka Areshidze believes that it is not proven that the representatives of former government now residing in Ukraine could be behind this initiative. Areshidze told Commersant that “there is no direct evidence supporting the idea that the order was given in Ukraine. However, there are

questions.” Expert Nodar Kharshiladze thinks that the announcement made in the Security Office about the prevention of the terrorist attack is closely linked with the pre-electoral campaign of the government. “This is a typical attempt of pre-electoral agitation; the government will try to leave the impression it discovered the plot. It is a cheap political trick and is aimed at discrediting political opponents,” said Kharshiladze. The day following the briefing, Georgian soldiers living in Ukraine responded. One of the members of the Georgian National Legion fighting for the Ukrainian government, Vano Nadiradze, wrote a facebook post saying “Irakli Bagishvili

and Zebo, who were helping us, have been arrested in Georgia.” Friends of Bagishvili said that he had really helped the Georgians fighting in Ukraine by sending them warm clothes and that he was under the surveillance of the Georgian Special Services, who asked him to stop doing so. Notably, the storage place for the explosive device mentioned by the Security Forces is one of those secret places which was created in different regions across Georgia on the order of ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili in 2008-2009 for resistance to possible new attacks from Russia. Investigators believe that the coordinates of this secret

storage place were given to the suspects in Ukraine. However, the Georgian Dream government also has the exact details of these points; so blaming Ukraine and the Georgian fighters needs special justification. It was also revealed that one of the suspects is accused by the investigators of not only terrorism but also the abuse of granted power – this person is Levan Mamporia, an officer of the Poti Patrol Police and a relative of the Minister of Defense, Levan Izoria. Minister Izoria made a statement, though not about his connection to the detained suspect, “When the State Security Service makes an announcement about avoiding a seri-

ous threat, naturally, I have absolute trust in it. There are specific circumstances and evidence and this is not just on the level of assumptions. Further information about the connections and where the suspects were given the orders will soon become public,” said Izoria. But before the government releases the announced information the court has issued a two-month pretrial detention and has scheduled the next hearing for October 10th. At that time Georgia will already have a new government and whether this change will have influence on the decision to be made on October 10th is hard to predict, since it all depends on the government in power.




AUGUST 26 - 29, 2016

Poll Finds 48.3% of Georgians Disapprove of Current Government BY THEA MORRISON

Ex-PM Ivanishvili to Guest Host New TV Project BY THEA MORRISON AND NICHOLAS WALLER


eorgia’s oligarch former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili has announced that he plans to appear on a question-and-answer show that will air on his GDS TV channel. Ivanishvili previously appeared on an analytical launched in March, but soon quit without explanation. The new show’s co-producer, Mikheil Peikrishvili, denied allegations that the program will be used as a political platform for Ivanishvili. “It will be part of GDS’ election campaign programming. The former prime minister (Ivanishvili) will simply be one of many participants,” Peikrishvili said. Mirroring the marathon call-in shows of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chavez, Ivanishvili will answer questions from journalists and viewers, while serving as a guest-host of the new TV program.

“The TV show will start on September 1 and be broadcast once a week from different regions of the country. We will invite local journalists who will be able to ask questions. The final show will be in Tbilisi,” said Peikrishvili, who added that the first show would take place in the Adjara Region on the Black Sea. A wildly eccentric Georgian businessman who made his fortune in Russia in the volatile post-Soviet privatization period of the 1990s, Ivanishvili briefly served as prime minister from October 2012 to November 2013. He founded and later led the Georgian Dream coalition to victory in the 2012 parliamentary elections, ousting the government of staunchly pro-Western former President Mikheil Saakashvili. Ivanishvili voluntarily stepped down from his position after his hand-picked nominee for the presidency won the 2013 elections. In March 2012, Ivanishvili was ranked at number 153 in Forbes magazine's annual list of the world's richest billionaires, with an estimated net worth of 6.4 billion. He has since fallen to 298th place on Forbes’ list but remains Georgia’s richest person, worth USD 4.8 billion.


eorgianTVnetworkRustavi 2 on Tuesday released the results of a poll by German research institute GfK that showed that 48.3 percent of respondents disapprove of the government’s performance. According to the survey, 10.5 percent of respondents said they supported the current president, Giorgi Margvelashvili. Opposition party leader David Bakradze from the United National Movement (UNM) received the second highest rating, with 9.1 percent saying they’d vote for him. Former President Mikheil Saakashvili placed third, receiving 6.9 percent of respondents’ vote. Former Defense Minister and leader of the Free Democrats, Irakli Alasania, garnered 4.8 percent, while 3.6 percent of respondents said they support opera singer-turned-opposition party leader Paata Burchuladze. Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili got just 3.0 percent. When asked which political party they would vote for, 25.8 percent of those asked named the ruling party Georgian Dream as their top choice, just edging out the UNM who were backed by 25.5 percent of respondents. Burchuladze’s State for People coalition placed third with 6.9 percent of respondents’ votes. 3.7 percent of respondents supported the Labour Party and 2.9 percent the Free Democrats; the Patriots Alliance

earned 1.6 percent of the vote, and Nino Burjanadze’s staunchly pro-Russian Democratic Movement was backed by only 1.4 percent of those asked. 19 percent of respondents said they remain undecided. Participants in the survey named unemployment (47.4 percent), low wages and poverty (13 percent), low pensions (7.6 percent) and price increases (4.6 percent) as the country’s main problems. Several members of the ruling Georgian Dream party slammed the survey’s results, saying they do not correspond to the reality on the ground. "This is a deliberate attempt to distort reality. We already know the facts. These so-called statistics are a part of certain people’s fantasies,” Education Minister Aleksandre Jejelava said. According to the UNM, the survey is realistic, and it shows that people do not

like GD any more. "Any survey or discussion we have with voters clearly shows that people believe the Georgian Dream is a corrupt, irresponsible government. People are willing to support us,” UNM member Irakli Abesadze said. Responding to the findings, Burchuladze said the survey should help boost support for his party ahead of the upcoming elections. The survey was carried out from August 3-18, with 2,200 Georgian citizens taking part in the questionnaire. Gesellschaft fur Konsumforschung, or GfK, is Germany’s largest research institute, and the fourth largest market research organization in the world. The GfK Group is an international market research organization providing services in the three sectors- Custom Research, Retail and Technology and Media.




Asking for the Moon: Ogden on Common (Military) Sense OP-ED BY TIM OGDEN


terrible tragedy occurred this week when two Georgian soldiers undertaking Special Forces training were lost at sea during a diving exercise. An investigation has been launched into exactly what happened while the bereaved families accuse the Ministry of Defense of negligence. Every year, a few soldiers across the world die in training (a British soldier from the Royal Regiment of Scotland was killed during a night-time live firing exercise earlier this week) and as terrible as it is, in many regards it is to be expected. Training must be realistic to prepare the individual soldier for the rigours and dangers of warfare and combat, and with exercises involving live rounds and explosives being fired and thrown around, a certain number of accidents are inevitable. Equally inevitably, civilians who have never done a day in uniform then become involved, and wag their heads over the brutal and harsh nature of military training, apparently blind to the very obvious truth that war is a brutal and harsh business and if a soldier is expected to survive it then their training must prepare them adequately. A few years ago, a soldier attempting the selection course for Britain's Special Air Service died from exposure on a 40 mile march, alone in the wilderness, and when the public

The death of the two Georgian soldiers this week was utterly pointless on a number of levels. Source: navytimes.com

became aware of the incident the media had a field day. How could the Ministry of Defense let this man die in such a way when the modern world has safety nets such as rescue helicopters and searchand-rescue teams? The answer is as brutal as the exercise itself. The SAS is the world's foremost Special Forces unit on which all others have been based (including the USA's Delta Force), and the selection course alone takes two years. The unit believes in men being utterly independent and takes only those troops who are capable of pushing themselves beyond their limits; small wonder that the 40 mile march all candidates must undertake is simply

called 'Endurance'. The near-impossibility of SAS Selection has caused some courses to finish with no candidates found to have made the grade (out of hundreds of men), but it has also given rise to the finest soldiers on the planet. The examples of their expertise are endless, but most notably Argentine troops of the Falklands War dubbed them 'superhuman', and years later during the Gulf War, Chris Ryan, an SAS trooper whose unit had been captured, was able to evade Iraqi soldiers and travel alone in the desert for over 290 km with few supplies to eventually reach Syria. The point is, despite the savage nature of military training (especially the Spe-

cial Forces variety), there is always a point to it. Chris Ryan would never have been able to (or ever believed he could) execute the longest behind-enemy-lines escape in the history of warfare had his training not been so insufferably tough, and soldiers who calmly face combat would crack under the pressure of their first baptism of fire without the right preparation. Yet the death of the two Georgian soldiers this week was utterly pointless on a number of levels. The lacklustre showing of the Georgian Army in the 2008 war against Russia caused both the Georgians themselves and the Americans to set about reform-

ing the military with the urgency of Frederick the Great with a wasp in his pants, but some fundamental issues still clearly remain. The two soldiers who died were undertaking diving training at the time of their death, but in my opinion they had no business being in the water to begin with. It was apparently their first time diving, and they were sent into the sea in very choppy waters that any sensible officer would prevent any inexperienced troops from going into. That, surely, is common sense. However, I also see absolutely no need for military divers for Georgia in the first place. While the Georgian Army seems intent on copying everything American (including those awful uniforms, hats, and the style of marching; come on, chaps, thumbs pressed down, elbows locked, and sloped rifles if you please), I can't for the life of me see the need for US Navy SEAL-style soldiers here, simply because Georgia has no navy to begin with. Besides which, the handful of ships it retains now belongs to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and so if Georgia must have divers then they shouldn't be anything to do with the Army anyway. That, then, is really about it; two pointless deaths in a training exercise for a pointless capability that the country can never use effectively. As a Georgian citizen, I'll happily vote for any party in October's elections that irons out the stupid and introduces some common sense. However, I do rather feel like I'm asking for the moon.




AUGUST 26 - 29, 2016

No Agreement Reached Between Tbilisi Mayor and NGOs BY THEA MORRISON


rotest rallies and a hunger strike at Tbilisi City Hall continue as an agreement has yet to be reached between Mayor David Narmania and NonGovernmental organizations (NGOs) regarding environmental problems in the capital city of 1.5 million people. A meeting was held between the two opposing City Council members, city

officials and Narmania in attendance, where environmental activists and NGOs peppered Narmania with questions about an incident on Tbilisi’s Kazbegi Street, which saw around 40 healthy trees cut down on August 17. The protestors demanded the ousters of both Narmania and the Deputy Head of the Ecology and Landscaping Service. Narmania refused to quit and insisted that a decision about the site would be made after the Prosecutor’s Office finishes its investigation into the incident. “There is freedom of speech and expres-

Nata Peradze, Head of NGO Guerrilla Gardening Tbilisi had to be taken to hospital after a week on hunger strike outside Tbilisi City Hall. She has been replaced by Elene Malashevski-Jakeli for the next round of protests

sion in our country and no one can limit it, so these people can continue their protest,” stated Narmania at the meeting. Irakli Kupradze, who is a member of the NGO Green Fist, confronted Narmania and demanded that the city’s delegation specifically discuss concrete problems instead of making populist statements. Narmania responded to Kupradze’s demands by calling him a “monkey” and expelled him from the meeting. Narmania then chastised several of the environmentalists for speaking without permission and told them to leave the session. Both the activists and members

of the NGOs immediately walked out of the meeting and vowed to continue their protest rally outside City Hall. Members of Guerrilla Gardening Tbilisi are continuing their hunger strike and say the protest will last until their demands are met. Guerrilla Gardening’s Head Nata Peradze was forced to end her week long protest on Tuesday when she was rushed to hospital after her health deteriorated earlier in the week. Peradze was replaced by fellow Guerrilla Gardening member, Elene Malashevski-Jakeli. The protestors also demanded that

Narmania issue orders to immediately halt the illegal cutting down of trees within the city limits. Narmania reiterated that the city government has developed a Tbilisi Environmental Strategy for 2015-2020, the first of its kind, which will come into force on January 1, 2017. Under the five-year strategy, nearly 560,000 trees have been planted over the last two years, Narmania said. Narmania said he would present a comprehensive report on the progress of the environmental strategy to Tbilisi’s City Council on August 26.



AUGUST 26 - 29, 2016

Hungarian-German Delegation Visits Georgia on RegionWide Hunt for German PoW Cemeteries

The Hungarian delegation at the monument to Mihaly Zichy, Tbilisi



n August 22-23, the Hungarian Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia, and the German Circle of Baranya County in Hungary brought a Hungarian-German group to Tbilisi to seek out old cemeteries where German prisoners (PoWs) had been buried during and after World War II. The group of 25, made up of ethnic Hungarians as well as ethnic Germans who have lived in Hungary for the past 200 years, visited Chechnya, Azerbaijan and Georgia within the framework of 20152017 memorial years of post-war captives declared by the Hungarian government. According to the German Association, Tbilisi, around 2000 ethnic Germans live in Georgia today, though the exact number is unknown due to constant migration. During their time here, the group visited the Saburtalo PoW cemetery, as well as that near the Maglivi (High) University block of the Tbilisi State University. They then went to Rustavi, Gardabani, the Hofnungstal-traubental cemetery, Ferdinand Otten’s pharmacy, the 1918 German Embassy, the former Kirche / house of Pastor Meier (Marjanishvili), former Wetzel hotel (Marjanishvili), and former German School (David Aghmashenebeli St.). GEORGIA TODAY met with them during a break. “This is my first time in Georgia. I’ve heard quite a lot about the country and I’ve always wanted to come here,” said Dr. Peter Szilagyi, Deputy State Secretary, representing Hungary. “The Caucasus

During WWII there were around 20,000 Hungarian captives in Tbilisi, 30 percent of whom were ethnic Germans

has always been a bit of a mystery to me, but at the same time my impressions have always been positive. This is a pilgrimage based on a civil initiative. Hungary is recognizing Memorial Years of German prisoners taken to labor against their will during the times of the Soviet Union, in which both the State and civil organizations are involved. The German circle of Baranya County has organized two tours already,” he told us. The group comprised a number of Hungarian historians, one of whom was Yuri Dubko: “There have always been economic and cultural ties between the Hungarian and Georgian tribes, as proven by historical sources. The first step in our relations occurred 1600 years ago with trade and some Georgians are known to have volunteered to fight in the Hungarian armies.” Dubko was eager to see the country where his ancestors had been kept in camps. “We knew from the surviving PoWs that Georgians had treated them very well and not at all like enemies,” he said. “Sometimes, Georgians took a risk by giving the prisoners bread or sending letters to Hungary on their behalf to tell their families they were alive.” There were 26 camps in Georgia in which Hungarians, Germans, Romanians and other ethnicities worked. 800,000 Hungarian PoWs were divided between different countries, out of which 300,000 died. There were around 20,000 Hungarian captives just in Tbilisi, 30 percent of whom were ethnic Germans. Those who died, usually as a result of hunger or lack of medicine, were buried in Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Ochamchire, and other places. GEORGIA TODAY also spoke with Josef Kompfl, a famous Hungarian architect, an ethnic German, about his personal war story: “In 1945, when I was three, my father was arrested and forced to work in Georgia. He spent one month getting there and I remember him telling me when he got back three years later that around 200 people were taken together with him, also ethnic Germans.” Among the delegates were representatives of different spheres: Judit Muller, Director of the Janus Pannonius Museum, Hungary, and Josef Chegir, a Hungarian pensioner and former guitar teacher among them. Josef first visited Georgia 40 years ago: “The city has modernized well and you get the sense that people are living better, if I am not misled by these nice views. Tbilisi has increased a lot in size and I see a lot of young children- which tells me that it’s not like Hungary, where the mortality rate surpasses the birth rate. Tourism is looking better than ever, too!” he told GEORGIA TODAY.





AUGUST 26 - 29, 2016

Fines for Littering on the Up



ith the new Waste Management Code in action imposing responsibility on various structures to fine citizens for illegal dumping, Georgia has gradually started to reduce the impact of waste on the environment. With a total of 12,915 fines handed out, the state budget saw 1.3 million GEL in the period from January 2015 to January 2016. Before parliament ratified the new code, the country had no unified document regulating the waste management sector, and problems within it. Penalties were present in the Administrative Code, but were very fragmented and didn’t include penalties that would apply in all cases, or with all types of waste. So the new code not only established penalties, but also imposed obligations to companies, the government, local municipalities, and citizens. According to Neli Korkotadze, the Chief Environmental Inspector at the Environmental Supervision Inspectorate, introducing the new code is a good way for the country to think about a proper waste management system, which includes not only municipal waste but also hazardous, solid, and medical waste to name a few. “More importantly, everything is written out in time in order for the country to approximate to international regulations. The code is fully based on EU regulations and has imposed sanctions on certain violations,” continued Korkotadze. In the sanctions section of the code, the Environmental Supervision Inspectorate (ESI) under the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection, Patrol Policy under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and local municipalities were given responsibility and authority for imposing penalties. The three institutions have the right to fine various organizations and individuals for any actions that violate the code. As Korkotadze notes, the enactment of the code has seen impressive results over the year, however, the problem still exists, with various areas remaining covered with waste. According to statistics from the ESI, the year 2015-2016 saw a dramatic rise in the number of fines, from 258 cases in 2014-2015 to 671. While the Patrol Police was not eligible to impose such fines before the Waste Management Code, since it was introduced, the majority of fines have been written by them, totalling 12,244 cases of littering from cars on the highway. As Korkotadze explained, both activities were due to the new code, as it forced the institutions to act. In the municipalities, there is a more complicated picture. Most municipalities have illegal dumpsites due to a lack of municipal waste collection services, either now or in the past. As the code obligated the municipalities to act on closing those illegal dumpsites, the local authorities have begun working in this direction, and have purchased equipment to provide services to areas which were not previously covered. A USAID funded program Waste Management Technologies in the Regions (WMTR), which is implemented by the International City/Country Management Association (ICMA) and the Cau-

casus Environmental NGO Network (CENN), requested statistics of its two targeted regions – Kakheti and Adjara A.R. When asked how their systems worked, most of the municipalities in the regions stated that they either have no-one to monitor illegal dumping, or they do not have information on registered violations. However, it must be noted that Kobuleti, Batumi, and Telavi municipalities are very active in monitoring and imposing fines if necessary. For instance, in the period of January 2015 - February 2016, Telavi Municipality wrote fines that totalled 1,100 GEL, while Batumi Municipality received 6,750 GEL from fines. According to the code, a person who dumps less than 2 kg of waste is fined 80 GEL, from a building- 100 GEL and from a car- 120 GEL. For 2 kg or more, the fine is 150 GEL, or for a legal entity, 500 GEL. “Fines do have some effect and are efficient up to a point. People realize that if they are fined once they will be fined for repeated offenses. This is similar for enterprises, and for those who have an EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment), the fines are quite high,” explains Korkotadze. She estimates that the number of fines will continue to increase for another year or year and a half, while municipalities and companies create more organized waste management systems. She notes that the imposition of fines is directly proportional to the reduction of pollution to the environment. “The purpose of the fine is exactly this – to force people to think and act differently,” she says, adding that there are very rare cases of repeated violations from a previously fined person or company. She notes that the problem her inspection faces most often is collecting proof. “If the inspector didn’t see the violation right at the moment, it becomes hard to find appropriate evidence. Of course there is witness testimony, but it still needs to be backed up,” she explained, adding that the second problem is awareness among the population, who do not realize the impact of throwing a bottle on the ground, for instance. “Another problem that we initially faced but have managed to overcome was that fines from the inspector were sent to court, which prolonged the process. From now on, we will have a similar system to the patrol police: on-the-spot fines. Additionally, we plan on collaborating with customs offices at the borders in order to put some informational banners in various languages indicating that throwing garbage in nature is fined by law,” stated Korkotadze. The next probable step for governmental institutions is to strengthen enforcement mechanisms and the capacity of local municipal authorities in order to fully enact the Waste Management Code. Even though fines are not a perfect method for changing habits, it is a proven method, along with raising awareness, especially at the early stage. Therefore, the government, together with local and international organizations, should actively and aggressively work on campaigns raising awareness in order to make the population understand that dumping waste whenever they desire is dreadful for the environment, their long-term health, and costs money for the government to clean and protect the area.



AUGUST 26 - 29, 2016

Signs of Something: Etseri, Svaneti BY TONY HANMER


e are now counting down the days until the village's fields are emptied of scythed, dried, stacked hay, which their owners will sled off to their barns by oxen pairs for bovine winter feed. Once those fields are free, our cows will no longer go up the mountain and need laborious fetching down every evening, the summer's drudge. We will send them to this field or that for some weeks, and they'll actually come home themselves! A sign of coming autumn, as days shorten and cool off while the Georgian lowlands continue to swelter. Another fall sign is the coming drop-off in tourist numbers. School in this country doesn't start until mid-September, but elsewhere it's usually earlier than this, so vacationing families with schoolchildren must wrap things up soon. The tourists without this time constraint are free, of course, to come and go, and the approaching fall season promises spectacular leaf displays on Svaneti's mountainsides. Speaking of signs... although it's not the best time for it (that would be spring), I'm finally ready to plant a Hanmer Guest House sign of my own, and see the fruit that it will produce. It will go in down near the Etseri bus stop, on the Zugdidi-Mestia road, cemented in place, complementing the smaller version which is on the wall of the house. It's only been, what, two years since I ordered the thing in Tbilisi and fetched it up here? I used to work in signage, along with screen printing of stickers, baseball caps, T-shirts and other things, as a late teenager in Canada. It was my first full-time job, which came and found me when I was nearing the end of grade 12 in high school, and it changed my life over four years. Solid Rock Signs, later Sign It, was never that successful financially, though it was the livelihood of the two men who started it and their families. But it was a rich training ground for good work habits and other important adult life skills, helped me make

friendships which have lasted these thirty years, and taught me the art of serigraphy by hand to boot. George was the main graphic artist; I attended his funeral just a few months ago after an inoperable brain aneurysm dealt him its final blow. Dear fellow. He would send me up to eight layers of colors to print one after another on intricate little baseball cap crests, the layers needing to be perfectly "registered", or lined up one on another in the right place and order. When the company had a falling out with one of its main salesmen and he moved on, he couldn't find a better printer in the province of Alberta, they later told me. I wasn't the fastest, but I worked hard to be as accurate as I could be. I still have an album of my best work, part of my portfolio. Screen printing is for large-volume orders; you would do a few prints only as art, limited edition signed and numbered pieces to go on the wall. But for one or a few items, like a single sign or two, you need vinyl, cut precisely by a computer-controlled blade, and stuck onto the sign. This is what I went with for my own guest house signs, cut in Tbilisi. The frame and post for them had to be welded by hand to my specifications from steel in Zugdidi. Then I spray-painted these parts for rust protection, slot the signs and their plexiglas covers in, and bolt an end piece on to hold it all in place. Then I'll drive it down. Dig a deep enough hole; plant the sign; make cement and fill it; guy-rope and peg the sign and wait for the cement to dry. That's all there is to it, though I'm embarrassed to admit that it took me this long to get around to assembling the thing. Better late than never, though, and it will point the 1 km way to us from both sides, another item in our arsenal of advertising options. It's about time! Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance� Facebook group, now with over 1300 members, at www.facebook. com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/ He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri: www.facebook.com/hanmer.house.svaneti

Contact: www.edelbrand.ge Phone: 599 461908





AUGUST 26 - 29, 2016

The Long Road to Ushguli BY RICHARD COLLETT


'm Richard, the founder and editor of the online magazine Travel Tramp. I'm a travel mad Englishman on one epic adventure around the world, and I love to get as far off the beaten track as I can! I’ve agreed to share a few of my experiences with the readers of GEORGIA TODAY. You can find more at www.travel-tramp.com I'd always wanted to hike the long road to Ushguli from Mestia, high in the mountains of the Svaneti region of Georgia. But the weather here is unpredictable. It was April, almost May, and yet the road- if you can even call it that- had only just opened up. The mountain peaks were still covered in snow, the odd avalanche was hurtling down the slopes as the warmer weather turned it to slush, and in the high passes rocks would tumble to the ground. The nights were freezing cold, and being a well prepared, organized and of course experienced traveller, I hadn't thought to pack my down sleeping bag. How cold could it be? I thought. Really bloody cold was the answer I got. In Mestia- the hub of the Svaneti regiona town that lies at 1500 meters altitude, and mere miles from the Russian border, I was told by local guides and the tourist information service that it wasn't wise to attempt the 4 day walk through the mountains to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ushguli. Ushguli is an old collection of villages that claims to be the highest continually inhabited settlement on the planet, a place where ancient Svan defensive towers rise to the clear blue skies and verdant green mountain slopes reach up to the many, many peaks. I was too early in the year to make the walk, but a 4x4 would at this time be able to take the road. It wouldn't be quite the same, but still, Ushguli would be the highest place on Earth that I'd visited. I was in. Maybe it's the altitude affecting me here, but Svaneti is one of the most glorious places I have ever visited, and Ushguli is the literal pinnacle of that glory. A big claim I know, but one that you should really verify yourself if you haven't visited, and if you have been here, then you already know that what I'm claiming is probably true. Ushguli is actually a collective term for four villages- Chazhashi, Jibiani, Chvibiani and Murk’meli- which are loosely separated from each other, although almost completely merged. They lie at the insurmountable height of 2410 meters above sea level. It's high, really high. And the road from Mestia, the closest town of any real size, is impassable for much of the year due to snow fall and landslides. This makes it not only one the highest communities in the world,




but also one of the most isolated. Because of this isolation, and the sheer difficulty in reaching Ushguli, the villages have managed to retain a somewhat unique and archaic feel to them. It's a fascinating look into Svaneti's history and culture. Now that I was intent on visiting, it was time to find a way to actually get there. In Mestia I found a 4x4 driver looking for work that day and before long Geo was driving me into the mountains. Ushguli is a mere 45 kilometers from Mestia, but Geo said that we would be gone the whole day. It would take at least 3 hours to get there and 3 to get back, and that was with no stops. I didn't quite believe him. An average speed of 15 kilometres an hour seemed unbearably slow. And as we sped out of Mestia, slowly ascending to new heights, the road was nice, new and solid tarmac. After admiring the views of Mestia, and the multitude of Svan defensive towers that still stand here, we suddenly began to slow down. The new road had ended. Dust was being kicked up, the tarmac was gone and we

were driving on a dirt track. From here on, the road slowly deteriorated. We were crawling along, gaining both altitude and distance on Mestia. Of course, Geo was right. Why did I ever doubt him? As we passed through smaller villages and hamlets, we followed the course of the River Ingur. It was flowing fast, as the snow on the mountains began melting in the spring and feeding the fierce current. Geo was lamenting the depopulation of Upper Svaneti as we drove. The Svan have an infamous reputation in Georgia for their independence. The distinct Svan towers were used in days gone to keep outsiders at bay, and that's if they could even make it this high into the mountains. Isolation was their protection.


TK 379 TK 387 TK 383 TK 386 TK 382 TK 378 TK 381 TK 381 TK 380 TK 391 TK 393 TK 390 TK 392



EVERYDAY 1/2/4/5/6/7 3 EVERYDAY 1/2/4/6/7 1/3/4/5/7 1/2/4/6/7 1/3/4/5/7



02:35 06:35 22:55 01:40 18:10 21:15 04:25 05:05 19:40 10:35 20:15 06:25 16:20

04:05 08:05 00:30+1 04:55 21:30 00:30+1 05:50 06:30 22:55 11:40 21:20 09:20 19:20

Geo said that the modern world, though, was taking its toll on both the language and the people here. The Svan have a distinct and proudly separate identity to the lowland Georgians, but inhospitable weather conditions and lack of economic opportunities have forced many of the younger population to head to the bigger cities of Tbilisi or Zugdidi. That's why the tourism money was becoming so important, and a reason why Mestia has been so developed in recent years. Ushguli, on the other hand, has remained- as an untouchable UNESCO site- the way it has always been for hundreds of years. We passed small hamlets and the odd defensive tower sticking out of the cliff side or on the edge of the river. Geo said that in the harsh winter months, most

10 Galaktion Street

of the children in these small settlements were sent to the cities to live and to attend school. It was just easier. But Ushguli still has a diehard population of around 200, and enough kids for a yearround school to be run there, unlike many of the villages along the way. The altitude meter was creeping up, and it was becoming colder and colder as Georgian pop songs blared from the cassette that Geo was playing at full volume. We were close though, and as we neared the villages, the sloping fields which slowly climbed towards the mountains became full of signs of life- horses, cattle, sheep, goats and the odd herder and their wayward hut. The fields were vibrant in spring, the snow melting to reveal lush pastures and

ample grazing. It might be isolated, but it would be an alluring place in the world to be able to call home. Then over the crest of the rocky, muddy road, the Svan towers began to appear. The long road was finally ending, and I was in Ushguli. I jumped out of the 4x4, leaving Geo to find a cup of hot chai while I stared in awe at the impressive villages arrayed before me. Ushguli is a small place, but it doesn't lack character. There were no real roads or paths through the buildings and towers, some of which dated back hundreds of years and had been occupied by the same families for the entirety of their existence. In places the ice was still so thick it had to be physically climbed over, and sliding down the other side there was maximum chance that I'd run into the path of a carefree cow. In other places the snow had melted, leaving large, muddy puddles that had to be simply walked through, with no way around. The locals went their way fearlessly, traversing snow, ice and mud as if it wasn't even there, some dragging huge sleds through the slush, laden high with mud or cow dung, to whatever business they had to attend to that day. There was even a little restaurant serving Khachapuri, spicy Karcho soup and showing endless episodes of Georgian soap operas. It wasn't all medieval here. It was already getting late in the day when I went to find Geo, still drinking chai, and we set off in the 4x4, back the way we’d come, on the only long road out of Ushguli, to try and make the slow, rough journey to Mestia before the sun set.

Tel: (995 32) 2 45 08 08 E-mail: info@peoplescafe.ge



AUGUST 26 - 29, 2016



MOVEMENT THEATER Address: 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave., Mushthaid park Telephone: 599 555 260 August 26 RECITATIVE IN THE CITY Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Start time: 21:00 Free Entry CINEMA

AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava St. Telephone: 2 99 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 Lari August 26 – September 2 JULIETA Genre: Drama Directed by Pedro Almodóvar Cast: Adriana Ugarte, Rossy de Palma, Emma Suárez Language: Russian Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 13-14 GEL THE HANDMAIDEN Directed by Chan-Wook Park Genre: Drama, Romance Cast: Min-hee Kim, Jung-woo Ha, Kim Tae-ri Language: Russian Start time: 19:15, 22:15 Ticket: 13-14 GEL MECHANIC: RESURRECTION Directed by Dennis Gansel Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller Cast: Jason Statham, Jessica Alba, Tommy Lee Jones Language: Russian Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 13-14 GEL THE INFILTRATOR Directed by Brad Furman Genre: Biography, Crime, Drama Cast: Paul M. Brennan Language: Russian Start time: 17:00, 19:30 Ticket: 10-14 GEL RUSTAVELI CINEMA Address: 5 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 55 50 00 www.kinoafisha.ge

Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL August 26 – September 2 SUICIDE SQUAD Directed by David Ayer Genre: Action, Crime, Fantasy Cast: Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Cara Delevingne Language: Russian Start time: 22:40 Ticket: 13-14 GEL WAR DOGS Directed by Todd Phillips Genre: Drama, Comedy, War Cast: Miles Teller, Bradley Cooper, Ana de Armas Language: Russian Start time: 22:15 Ticket: 13-14 GEL MECHANIC: RESURRECTION (Info Above) Start time: 15:00, 17:30, 22:30 Ticket: 13-14 GEL ANIMATION MOVIE FESTIVALI IN NIKOZI Address: Nikozi, Gori September 1 FESTIVAL OPENING Start time: 13:00 September 2 NEF ANIMATION ANIME FESTIVAL ANIMATION MOVIE STUDIO ANIMOS TINDIRINDIS - ANIMATION MOVIE FESTIVAL FROM LITHUANIA Start time: 13:00 MUSEUM


EXHIBITION OF GEORGIAN WEAPONRY NUMISMATIC TREASURY The exhibition showcases a long history of money circulation on the territory of modern Georgia from the 6th century BC. to 1834. June 11 – March 11 (2017) EXHIBITION "MEDIEVAL TREASURY" The exhibition showcases preChristian and Georgian medieval art, which reflects the continuity of the cultural traditions that were the basis for the formation of Georgian statehood and national identity. June 16 – December 16 THE EXHIBITION “NEW DISCOVERIES - GEORGIAN ARCHAEOLOGY” The exhibition will be held in the frame of the international conference On Salt, Copper, and Gold: The Origins of Early Mining and Metallurgy in the Caucasus" June 12 – August 20 EXHIBITION "I SEE WITH MY FINGERS" The exhibition showcases artworks by the professors and students from Tbilisi State Academy of Arts. Most of the artworks are created around the poem "The Knight in the Panther's Skin" and are dedicated to the 850th anniversary of Shota Rustaveli. MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION Address: 3 Sh. Rustaveli Ave. PERMANENT EXHIBITION IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA Address: 8 Sioni St. Telephone: 2 98 22 81 July 6 – August 30 EXHIBITION “QUARTER OF THE DAY” BY TAMAR MELIKISHVILI SHALVA AMIRANASHVILI MUSEUM OF ART Address: 1 Lado Gudiashvili St. Telephone: 2 99 99 09 www.museum.ge

May 18 – September 11 AVANT-GARDE 1900-1937 The exposition showcases the collections of the Museum, including around 100 paintings and graphic works, archival material, avant-garde posters and books by Vasily Kandinsky, Niko Pirosmani, Mikhail Gelonov, Natalya Goncharova, Olga Rozanova, Kiril Zdanevich, David Kakabadze, Lado Gudiashvili, Ziga Valishevsky, Kazimir Malevich, Alexei Kruchenykh, Robert Falk, Osvaldo Lichin, Alexander Shevchenko, Shalva Kikodze, Mikhail Bilanishvili, Voldemar Boberman, Lev Brun and Kliment Redko. GIORGI CHALADZE PERSONAL EXHIBITION DEDICATED TO HIS 85TH ANNIVERSARY The exhibition showcases 40 paintings and sculptures created from the 1960s to present day. Giorgi Chaladze is a painter and sculptor, and the founder of the Union of Artists from Rustavi. He was awarded the Medal of Honor of Georgia. GALLERY

THE NATIONAL GALLERY Address: 11 Rustaveli Ave. www.museum.ge PERMANENT EXHIBITION Niko Pirosmanashvili, David Kakabadze, Lado Gudiashvili and sculptor Iakob Nikoladze. June 24, 2016 – June 24, 2017 NIKO PIROSMANASHVILI’S WORKS “YARD CLEANER” AND “EAGLE SEIZING A HARE” Both paintings were the ownership of Ilya and Kirill Zdanevich until 1930 when Dimitri Shevardnadze bought part of their collection (39 paintings) including the "Yard Cleaner" and "Eagle Seizing a Hare". Today, both paintings are among the collection of Shalva Amiranashvili Museum of Fine Arts. MUSIC

MOVEMENT THEATER Address: 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave., Mushthaid park Telephone: 599 555 260

August 27, 30 JAM SESSION AT MT LEADERS: RESO KIKNAZE QUINTET AND PAPUNA SHARIKADZE Free Entry Start time: 21:00 August 30 TANGO EVENING “MILONGA, LA CUMPARSITA” ARGENTINE TANGO DANCE NIGHT Start time: 21:00 Ticket: 5 GEL MTKVARZE Address: 2 Agladze Str. September 2 ND-BAUMECKER (Ostgut Ton, Panorama Bar / DE), ASH, GIO SHENGELIA, SIKHA Start time: 23:50 Ticket: 20 GEL BATUMI

BATUMI TENNIS CLUB Address: Batumi Boulevard August 26 THE SANDA Start time: 18:00 Ticket: 10-20 GEL August 27 SATURDAY BLUES FEVER KOKA & T. BLUES MOB Band from Tbilisi Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL August 29 BAND ZVERI CONCERT Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10-70 GEL August 30 ANRI JOKHADZE’S FIRST SOLO CONCERT Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15-45 GEL September 2 BALLETO DI MILANO & ROYAL NATIONAL BALLET Gala concert as a part of its European premier. "Across the Universe" presents a selection of world folk dance heritage performed with Georgian temperament, new choreographic interpretations and a fresh approach. Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-30 GEL CLUB VERTIGO Address: Near Batumi Beach August 27 NIKOLOZ RACHVELI, LIZA BAGRATIONI AND NATIONAL SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA Start time: 21:00 Ticket: 40 GEL CLUB MANDARIN Address: Batumi Boulevard August 22 JAH KHALIB Start time: 23:00 Ticket: 50 GEL TAKE FIVE Address: Near Batumi Beach August 27 YANN DESTAL THE VOICE OF MODJO Start time: 23:30 Ticket: 40 GEL




AUGUST 26 - 29, 2016

Golden Moments & Olympic Logic

FOR SALE: BMW – 321 model Date of issue 1936

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CONTACT PERSON 557 12 38 90


ould a weightlifter in the heaviest category look elegant? Georgia’s – and now the world’s – strongest man is built like a statue standing on cast-iron legs with every muscle in its place in a well-built tall body. No doubt he was the most popular and attractive physical presence in the arena that day. And the day was an unprecedented instant of triumph in the sporting history of Georgia – two national flags raised at the same time in the same Olympic event as a result of two victories in the 105+ weightlifting contest in the Rio 2016 Games: Lasha Talakhadze, 22, who won Gold and Irakli Turmanidze, 32, who took Bronze. Incidentally, nothing was supposed to be taken for granted that memorable Olympic day – the entire pack of contestants was extremely powerful. They all fought like lions having staged an outstanding show competing for the title of strongest among men. One had to be present in person among the emotionally overwhelmed Georgian

Our motto was to do better in Rio than we did in London, and the mission was accomplished

– and not only – spectators to grab the special feel of the moment. Trying to put it all in regular journalistic parlance would be more than a vain attempt to describe the situation. Both Georgian athletes, especially Lasha, were expected to yield a considerable result and Olympic logic would have it happen so because both were good and ready, but serendipity had it that both would triumph simultaneously in front of the crowds and for many a Georgian leaning eagerly forward in his seat- the relief was truly liberating; liberating us from heavy hearts, drooping spirits, disturbed conscience and wistfully roaming minds. We needed that Gold, and the Bronze, too, for that matter. I’m just another journalist in the crowd here, and my role in winning a medal is equal to nothing, but before Lasha’s win, I still suffered my own sense of guilt that a Gold was escaping us. This is the way it feels once you are a member of the Olympic family. Later that day, I discovered our Gold boy was a real intellectual on top of his muscle power, when I found myself by chance in an interpreter’s seat at the post-battle interviews and press conference. The logic of thought and the brilliance of word were right there for the ladies and gentlemen of the press and broadcast media to pick up and make use of. There could not have been anything more delightful than recognizing your fellow countrymen’s versatility in the most important international event for the rest of the world to hear. Thank you, boys! We all like a happy ending in a book or a movie, but a happy ending in real life feels even better. More happiness came on hearing that Georgian Zaza Nadiradze had emerged number 5 in rowing – the single scull – beating everybody’s expectations. Olympic logic should have given us a couple of medals in judo, but fortune did not have them for us. But then a second Gold piece was added to our modest but still

The national anthem of Georgia could have been played on more occasions had we had both better luck and better training very valuable set of medals by Lado Khinchengashvili, the ‘featherweight’ free style wrestler who did very close battle with his Japanese rival. What a relief it was on the verge of our nervous breakdown while watching him fight! So the national anthem of Georgia sounded twice in the Rio Olympic Games of 2016 – not bad at all! But the happy tune could have been played on more occasions had we had both better luck and better training. Says Leri Khabelov, President of the Georgian National Olympic committee who feels proud about our Olympic harvest: ‘Our motto was to do better in Rio than we did in London, and the mission was accomplished; all our athletes fought selflessly, having done their utmost. In a word, all our preliminary calculations have been justified. This feels really good.’ Nothing to add!




Exclusive Interview with Olympic Champion in Weightlifting, Lasha Talakhadze BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE AND GIORGI CHANISHVILI


asha Talakhadze, a 22-year-old Georgian, recently won Gold in the Rio Olympic Games, losing a world record for snatch but setting a new one for total (473kg). He has been training, as per his family’s tradition, almost half his life, following in the footsteps of his father before him. GEORGIA TODAY got a chance to meet him.

YOUR DAD WAS A WELLKNOWN WEIGHTLIFTER OF HIS TIME. HOW MUCH HAS HE HELPED YOU IN YOUR SPORTING CAREER? He helped me a lot. He was a very strong athlete himself – winner of medals and other awards.

YOU ARE IN A PERFECT PHYSICAL SHAPE. HOW RIGID IS YOUR DAY-TO-DAY REGIME? WHAT DOES YOUR WORKING DAY LOOK LIKE? Weightlifting is a huge part of my very busy life. I’m in training day in, day out which practically leaves no time for me to relax- sport totally dominates my life.

YOU DID ALL SIX MOVEMENTS OF THE OLYMPIC EVENT WITHOUT MUCH STRAIN. WHY DID YOU AND YOUR COACH NOT ORDER HIGHER WEIGHTS? THE IRANIAN ATHLETE BEAT YOUR WORLD RECORD BY JUST ONE KILO. DO YOU REGRET YOUR CHOICE? I don’t regret anything. These things happen in sporting life on a regular basis. The weights we ordered were optimal – the result talks volumes about that.

Didn’t I overpower the greatest Persian weightlifter? What matters is that all my new world records and my Olympic Gold are in place.

WHAT IS IT THAT YOU MOST LIKE TO DO ASIDE FROM WEIGHTLIFTING? I love to spend my free time with my family, which I adore.

YOU HAVE IMPRESSED THE PUBLIC WITH YOUR WITS, NOT ONLY WITH YOUR PHYSICAL STRENGTH. HOW DID YOU MANAGE TO DO THIS? I love reading. Often, at sport collective sessions, I read books. I always have a couple in my backpack.

YOU HAVE ACHIEVED ALL YOU COULD IN SPORTS. WHAT IS THE NEXT STAGE OF YOUR SPORTING DREAM? I’ve got all the titles I could earn so far but I want to appear in almost every high-level competition in the world.

DO YOU EVER SMOKE OR DRINK ALCOHOL? Never! And I never will. That said, I wouldn’t say no to a glass of a good wine on special occasions. But that’s all!



I graduated from high school in western Georgia and then continued my education in a special college of physical edu-

I have no special plans or thoughts in that direction because sport is first place in my life right now.



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cation and sports where I majored in coaching skills. I have a plan to deepen my education in the future.


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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #873  

August 26 - 29, 2016

Issue #873  

August 26 - 29, 2016