Olympic judo champion Zurab Zviadauri and his cousin, also Olympic champion, are supporting opposing sides in the parliamentary election in their town Akhmeta, in eastern Georgia. (IPN.)

TBILISI, DFWatch – A Georgian Olympic judo champion says a sports hall named after him in Eastern Georgia was renamed and his photos taken down from the walls after he decided to support the opposition Georgian Dream coalition; however the governor of the region in eastern Georgia denies this information. 

Two months before an important parliamentary election, many top athletes are not afraid of jumping into the fray. Olympic judo champion Zurab Zviadauri says that after he voiced his support for Bidzina Ivanishvili, leader of the opposition Georgian Dream coalition, his friends started having problems. Some have been fired, some have received warnings. He sees the renaming of a sports hall as another political move.

The sport hall which was named after Zurab Zviadauri is located in Akhmeta, in the eastern Kakheti region, which was named after Zurab Zviadauri.

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A few days ago, he told daily newspaper Rezonansi that the name of the hall has been changed, and now it is named after Parnaoz Chikviladze, who belongs to the so-called first generation in Georgian judo. He says that photos of him were also taken down from the walls, officially because of refurbishment work. But later, the director of the hall asked the local government to put the pictures back up, as removing them was disgraceful.

Speaking about the political pressure he has experienced after making his decision to support the opposition, Zviadauri tells Rezonansi that he has been receiving many phone calls from various government bodies advising against taking such a step.

“Not to go to the Georgian Dream, because I wouldn’t then have left the way back, but when I didn’t? They called from the Sports Ministry, the Olympic Committee, the Interior Ministry, you name it, every government body called. Of course this was ordered from the top.”

Zurab Zviadauri’s cousin, Jarji Zviadauri, is also an Olympic champion, although internationally he competes for Greece. He is both World, European and Olympic champion. In Georgia cousins are very close, almost as close as brothers.

Despite having a strong bond, the two split. In the interview with Rezonansi, Zviadauri says “Jarji Zviadauri is not my brother any more, to me he is dead.”

Kakheti Information Center reports that the reason for the two cousins’ split is differing political views. Jarji supports Petre Tsiskarishvili, who is member of parliament (MP) for Akhmeta.

Now, there are rumors that Zurab Zviadauri is to be nominated as Georgian Dream’s majoritarian candidate for Akhmeta.

A few days ago, Petre Tsiskarishvili and Jarji Zviadauri attended a meeting in Akhmeta, where Jarji said he supports Petre Tsiskarishvili’s candidacy. This might be the reason for the split between the cousins.

Zurab Zviadauri says, if he is chosen to be Georgian Dream’s candidate for the town, he will immediately start working hard.

“People are fed up with Tsiskarishvili. Nothing has been done during his tenure as majoritarian, except when there are elections.”

Kakheti Information Center reported Saturday that the governor of Akhmeta denies Zurab Zviadauris claims regarding the sports hall being renamed.

“The sports hall is still named after him, and no-one took down the pictures of him. There are six halls in this school, one of them is named after Parnaoz Chikviladze, and it has been so from the beginning.”