Olympics: Georgia to take part in Sochi games

Georgia's Olympic Committee decided Thursday that its athletes will compete at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, scotching earlier suggestions they would boycott the event being hosted by arch-foe Russia.

"Today the Georgian National Olympics Committee, at its extraordinary session, decided that Georgia's Olympic team will take part in the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi," the committee's first vice-president Elguja Berishvili told AFP.

Lawmakers from President Mikheil Saakashvili's United National Movement party had previously mooted the possibility of a boycott to protest at Russia's perceived occupation of Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Relations between the two countries have thawed since billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili's coalition triumphed at parliamentary elections last October.

Ivanishvili has made normalising ties with Russia his foreign policy priority after the two sides severed diplomatic ties following the brief 2008 war over separatist South Ossetia.

He has however vowed to maintain Saakashvili's pro-Western course and continue Georgia's bid to join NATO and the European Union -- an ambition strongly opposed by Russia.

Russia has pumped around $50 billion (38 million euros) into transforming the Black Sea resort of Sochi, which lies just north of Abkhazia, in a bid to showcase Russia as a booming country on the world stage during the Games next February.