TBILISI, June 12 (R-Sport) - Georgia is prepared to accept Russian President Vladimir Putin’s offer to take a role in security at next year’s Winter Olympics, Georgian Foreign Minister Maya Panjikidze said Wednesday.
The breakaway region of Abkhazia, which Russia recognizes as independent and Georgia considers part of its territory, is just eight kilometers away from some of next year’s Olympic venues, in and around the Russian city of Sochi.
Russia and Georgia fought a brief war in 2008 over another region with a similar status, South Ossetia, and have yet to restore formal diplomatic relations.
On Friday, Putin said he was “absolutely ready” for Georgia to help with Olympic security, which could be a powerful gesture of reconciliation.
“We also see the potential of cooperation with the Russian Federation in preserving security at the Olympics,” Panjikidze said.
Meanwhile, Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili’s special representative to Russia, Zurab Abashidze, said his country “expresses readiness to cooperate with the Russian Federation on issues of preserving security.”
Putin did not specify what sort of Georgian help he was prepared to accept, and neither Panjikidze nor Abashidze said what they would offer.
Security at Sochi will be tight, and test events have taken place with a heavy police presence. The issue came under the spotlight in April when two suspects with links to Russia’s volatile North Caucasus allegedly detonated bombs at the Boston marathon.
Georgia confirmed last month it would not boycott the Olympics, ending years of uncertainty. Both Panjikidze and Abashidze restated that promise Wednesday.
Had Georgia chosen to boycott, it would be the first country to do so since North Korea refused to compete at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul because of its ongoing state of war with South Korea.
The only previous Winter Olympic boycott came when Taiwan refused to compete at the 1980 Games in Lake Placid, New York over a dispute about what its team should be called.
Next year's Winter Olympics will be held from February 7 to 23.