Winter Sports - Georgia to compete at Sochi Winter Olympics

Georgia will compete in next year's Winter Olympics hosted by Russia, the country's Olympic committee decided unanimously, marking an ease in ties between the two countries which fought a five-day war in 2008.

Winter Sports - Sochi 2014 'will be secure'

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0215 news Sochi 2014

Russia and Georgia severed ties following the brief war, which followed years of tension over Moscow's support for two rebel regions, including Abkhazia which lies just miles from Sochi, where Russia is spending more than $50 billion to host the Games.

Pro-Western Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has previously indicated reservations over the venue given its proximity to Abkhazia, where Georgian troops fought Moscow-backed Abkhaz rebels in a civil war during the 1990s.

Many ethnic Georgians were driven from the region, which Tbilisi still claims as part of its sovereign territory.

"The committee decided that Georgia should participate and I think it's a very good decision," Leri Khabelov, the committee president, told Reuters after the decision late on Thursday.

"I'm glad that our sportsmen have not been preparing for these Olympic Games in vain."

He said Georgia would send an official request to participate to the International Olympic Committee before May 7.

Newly elected prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, whose coalition beat Saakashvili's long-ruling United National Movement party in a parliamentary vote last October, has partly staked his popularity on mending ties with Russia.

Georgia has already been given the green light to resume exports of wine and water to Russia, which were halted following the 2008 war.

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