President Saakashvili meets Georgian Sportsmen

Today President Mikheil Saakashvili met Georgian sportsmen and claimed that their principle position had greatly contributed to the discharging of the situation. "The development of sport in Georgia is the matter of my own prestige [...] I believe that it is an important part of the national health and spirit," the President said, adding that the country needed new champions.

"Georgia was one of the most sporting republics of the former Soviet Union [...] It has always been painful for me when a Georgian would win and a red flag with hammer and sickle would rise and a voice would announce that the Russian sportsman won," the President said, stressing that after Georgia declared independence there had been good results in sport but later on they got worse. "The results became worse because gyms were not heated, water was leaking from ceilings, the infrastructure was ruined, coaches did not receive salaries, and many sportsmen fled the country," stated the President, adding that now that the situation had changed it was very painful when Georgian sportsmen were sporting on behalf of other countries. The President called on the Georgian sportsmen abroad to return to Georgia.

According to President Saakashvili, Georgia is becoming a sporting country step by step but in order to achieve further success, sportsmen's advice was needed. "If we manage to involve masses in sport, it would mean that people would be healthy in every direction," the President said.

The President stated that 400 playgrounds with artificial turf and 200 mini playgrounds have been built in Georgia. "I remember that in my yard, where I was playing football, we had a bad playground with asphalt surface," the President said, adding that later on vehicle sheds and booths had been built on the playgrounds. "This will never occur, now we are building stadiums everywhere. When I became a president there were only two swimming pools, now there are dozens of them, some of them are either already built or are being built," the President said, emphasizing that there had never been so many swimming pools, play grounds and big gyms in Georgia. "In Kutaisi I opened a high-class sports palace. I had played basketball in Kutaisi and know how bad its gyms had been," he said.

At the meeting the President congratulated a famous sportsman Vakhtang Balavadze on his 80-year jubilee. To mark a forthcoming jubilee of the Georgian Olympic champion Roman Rurua the President presented him with Saint George's icon.

The President promised to the sportsmen his support and the increasing of the financing.

During the meeting with sportsmen the President emphasized that next year financing of every kind of sport and especially those ones in which we had a perspective to achieve success at the Olympic Games, would increase markedly.

He said that bonuses for the Olympic champions and team coaches will increase, as well as the prize money for doctors.

President Saakashvili called on the sportsmen to prepare seriously for Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, stressing that the Olympic champions will receive as a bonus 100 000 dollars, silver medal holders 60 000 dollars, and the holders of the bronze medal - 40 000 dollars.

"Money is necessary but not essential. The essential is motivation. Your victories raise special feelings," the President said.

Mikheil Saakashvili stated that in his second term one of his main aims would be to see the Georgian football team successfully participating in the worlds football cup, stressing that certain positive processes were taking place in the Georgian football that give hope. As a clear proof of it the President draw fighting of the Scottish football team.

"As one of the main aims of my second term I deem the participation of the Georgian football team in the world cup and achieving a good result," he said.

As the President stated, years ago the football federation had been ruled by a mafia and people there had been making money out of selling football players abroad. Like in the whole country, there was a rampant corruption. Now the order is being established in this sphere.

press Office
of the President of Georgia

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