Georgia’s late Olympic athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili was remembered among fellow competitors who died in competition, as the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo officially launched on Friday.
The young luger, who died during a run at the Winter Games in Vancouver in 2010, was one of the number of sportspeople paid homage by organisers at the opening of this year’s Games in the Japanese capital.
The 21-year-old was competing in the Canadian-hosted Olympics two years after obtaining his professional licence, with his fatal crash coming in the Whistler resort in British Columbia on the opening day of the event.
Kumaritashvili suffered the crash in a training run after losing control of his luge and being thrown over the side barrier and into a pole. He died in a local hospital after being airlifted from the track.
His death was followed by a national outpouring of grief, while the Georgian team was welcomed with a standing ovation at the subsequent opening ceremony of the Vancouver Games.
The ceremony on Friday, which welcomed over 200 national team and committee line-ups in Tokyo, saw the Georgian squad led by flag-bearers Nino Salukvadze and Lasha Talakhadze. They are two of the 34 athletes from the country set to compete in 11 sports at Japanese arenas.
In the run-up to the opening of the event, Elguja Berishvili, the Head of the Georgian Olympic mission, said both the squad and supporters of the team had hopes of “great success” at the Games, while Varlam Liparteliani, the captain of the national judo team, told reporters the squad was fielding “strong judokas in every weight category” and had high hopes for the tournament.
- See agenda.ge infographics detailing Georgia’s results at the previous Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro
The first Georgian appearance at the Summer Games is set to come on Saturday, when Nikoloz Basilashvili will compete in tennis, Sandro Bazadze will enter the fencing ring, Eskerkhan Madiev will face his boxing opponent, Lukhum Chkhvimiani will test his judo skills, and Irakli Revishvili will vie with opposition in swimming.
On Sunday, six more Georgian athletes will go up against their counterparts, with three-time Olympic medal-winner Nino Salukvadze entering the Air Pistol range, Shota Mishvelidze and Goga Chkheidze competing in weightlifting, Vazha Margvelashvili and Tetiana Levytska-Shukvani going up against their judo opponents, and Giorgi Kharabadze scheduled for a boxing fixture.
Athletes from Georgia will also compete at the subsequent Paralympic Games, launching on August 24 and running through September 5 in the Japanese capital. The Georgian flag will be carried at the opening ceremony by wheelchair fencer Irma Khetsuriani, who, alongside fellow team members Nino Tibilashvili and Gvantsa Zadishvili, earned gold for Georgia at the World Championships in Warsaw earlier this month.