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Remember Vanderlei de Lima in Athens? He was leading the marathon until a spectator jumped out into his path.

The IOC later gave him the Pierre de Coubertin medal for showing the spirit of the Oympics.

I know I maybe getting ahead of myself, but I know who my choice for that award would be this time round.

I went to see Georgia's Nino Salukvadze taking part in the the women's 10m air pistol. And while her country is in a state of conflict with Russia, she managed to win bronze.

ninoblog.jpg

She might want to share the De Coubertin award with Russia's Natalia Paderina, who took the silver.

Because after the shooting medal ceremony, they hugged and kissed and smiled for the cameras in a moment of pure symbolism.

Salukvadze said afterwards how she couldn't sleep on Saturday night, she was so worried about her family back home. She was close to tears, and I had a lump in my throat as well.

How she kept it together in the media conference, I don't know, but Ban Ki-Moon couldn't have given a better performance.

"If the world were to draw any lessons from what I did there would never be any wars," Salukvadze said.

Paderina was also impressive - emphasising her friendship with the Georgian, which stretches back to when Salukvadze was part of the Russian team.

"We don't get mixed up in political things. Sport is beyond politics," she said.

Perhaps she could give her compatriot Nikolay Davydenko a lesson in diplomacy.

"I don't want to support Russia, Georgia or Abkhazia, but I think Georgia is doing a stupid thing by making war during the Olympic Games," said the tennis player.

Georgia's volleyball president, Levan Akhvlediani, was similarly steadfast, ahead of the Russia-Georgia beach volleyball match on Wednesday.

"If we need, we are ready to go back to Georgia like soldiers, because our country needs it, if we need it, but I think after the president asked us to stay here, we have to respect this and stay here."

So for now the two teams will remain at the Games, and continue to live cheek by jowl in the Olympic village.

And in Nino Salukvadze, the Olympic Games have found a new star - someone who can show how at a time when sport doesn't matter, it still means so much.

James Munro is the BBC’s sports news correspondent. Our FAQs should answer any questions you have.


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  • 1. At 12:56pm on 10 Aug 2008, Inherent wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 2. At 1:33pm on 10 Aug 2008, tucsonmike wrote:

    In these cases, the athletes are better people than the politicians.

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  • 3. At 2:04pm on 10 Aug 2008, CUPID7 wrote:

    Another kind of politic!

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  • 4. At 2:13pm on 10 Aug 2008, U9563463 wrote:

    'why all this shouting for G.B. team for 2012. If the clubs wont release there players just now who's to say they'll get players released for 2012'

    What has this got to do with this blog entry?! I am guessing you are talking about football and you might find that clubs in England and Scotland have released a number of players so that they can compete for their respective countries in Beijing. So they are likely to do the same if a GB team does come into existence in 2012.

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  • 5. At 3:41pm on 10 Aug 2008, ronniefwn wrote:

    That was a touching piece by Mr. Munro. This is indeed what sport is all about and the sooner our world leaders learn to live by the values and virtues of sportsmen and women, the better for humanity.

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  • 6. At 4:07pm on 10 Aug 2008, SammyG007 wrote:

    I strongly disagree with your assessment of Davdenko's comments.

    So Georgia makes a surprise attack its own people (many of whom are Russian citizens) hours after the latest mediation which called for a truce, razing villages and bombing a town to bits, potentially committing war crimes, using the distraction of the Olympics as a cover and when Russia retaliates (and these facts are not disputed by even the most ardent Russophobe), everyone is supposed to pretend that no one side can be blamed?

    If Ireland started bombing Northern Ireland's protestant regions killing thousands and GB retaliated, I suppose Irish and English athletes should hug and say "it's all the same to me. Who knows who's to blame"?

    The BBC's russian phobia is well known and documented - it's deep in the DNA of the organization going back to the cold war. To bring it to sports and accuse Davdenko's perfectly reasonable statement as being "undiplomatic" is reprehensible. (In the previous Irish/British scenario, imagine CNN Sports writing "While Beckham said he doesn't support Britian, Ireland, Northern Ireland, he undiplomatically suggested that Ireland was stupid to attack Northern Ireland" imagine the British codemnation of not only Beckham (for being unpatriotic) but CNN for suggesting that Beckham should say otherwise.

    If searching deep within your journalistic soul and understanding political nuances is too much for you, stick to pure fluff reporting on sports and don't comment on matters political.

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  • 7. At 4:18pm on 10 Aug 2008, ifizzle wrote:

    To Sammy G007. Your analogy doesn't work, I'm afraid. Northern Ireland is an official part of Great Britain - South Ossetia is not an official part of Russia. This matters a great deal in international politics.

    However, I do agree that what Davydenko said is not so bad, if showing a little bit of (understandable) bias towards his home country by not condemning his own country's reactions a weeny bit.

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  • 8. At 4:40pm on 10 Aug 2008, Sunblow wrote:

    I" m from Russia...And of course I don't like it even if I"m not good at politics anyhow

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  • 9. At 4:44pm on 10 Aug 2008, dre2007 wrote:

    In 2004, the 10,000 m race was equally interesting. Kenenisa Bekele won, and the runner up was an Eritrean. They embraced each other, bearing in mind that the countries are still in a state of war.

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  • 10. At 4:58pm on 10 Aug 2008, SammyG007 wrote:

    IDFerrer, actually Northern Ireland is part of the UK - Great Britain really refers to the Island with England, Wales and Scotland.

    But I do agree that my analogy is not perfect (no analogy ever is). The main idea was to highlight to a British holier-than-thou commentator a different perspective of how they may react when there's a conflict closer to home.

    Incidentally although South Ossetia is part of Georgia (and even Russia has always maintained this), Russia, Georgia and SO had all agreed to an arrangement which existed up to August 6/7th. Georgia broke this and can be acccused on precisely the same thing that Karadzic is accused of - genocide against itws own people. If NATO was justified in getting involved in the Yugoslav conflict, why isn't Russia?

    All this is part of a larger narrative whereby actions by the West are always deemed bu the "free" Western media to be ultimately based on noble reasons and those of the Russians on sinister ones. So when the Western airforces bomb civilian targets (even miles away from military ones like in Afghanistan on a daily basis), these are at best "regrettable" and "accidents" 9and at worst outright denied). Similar Russian actions are "barbaric" and "deliberate" (based on Russian's lack of respect for human life) so on.

    As one who has no ethnic or nationalistic affiliations with either the West or Russia (or the Middle East) it's enlightening to watch the BBC and contrast it with (say) Russia Today. (If you want to know what's happening in South Ossetia, watch Russia Today at http://streaming.visionip.tv/Russia_Today. If you want to know what's happening in Georgia, BBC would do.)

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  • 11. At 5:19pm on 10 Aug 2008, jaksap wrote:

    To IDFerrer, how hypocritical of you to remind us (from UK, I assume) what region is a part of what country. Wasn't it your shameless government, along with USA, that recognized the independence of Kosovo. You invalidated the international law, and all options are open now.

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  • 12. At 6:10pm on 10 Aug 2008, kwinquark1 wrote:

    SammyG raises an interesting aside in correcting silly ole Ferrer; This Team GB nonsense gets most people's goat as it is, but goes further in actually dismissing in it's title any contribution from Northern Ireland.

    Anyone for The United Kingdom?

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  • 13. At 6:54pm on 10 Aug 2008, Carole wrote:

    I fully agree, these athletes again showed true 'sportsmanship' like Federer and Nadal in the mammoth Wimbledon final. True ambassadors and a benchmark for politicians - or they damn well SHOULD be.

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  • 14. At 8:11pm on 10 Aug 2008, southerncoaster wrote:

    I cheer for the friendship between the two women players; but don't think Davydenko's comment crossed the line. Other than the word 'stupid', which is truly a personal opinion (everyone should be entitled to have), he said it right.

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  • 15. At 9:00pm on 10 Aug 2008, Gface wrote:

    "Anyone for The United Kingdom?"

    I beleive that the name of the Country is the "United Kingdom of Great Britain". "Britain" for short, so how about "Team UKGB" at least it will be flipping accurate!

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  • 16. At 9:02pm on 10 Aug 2008, themadczech wrote:

    Isn't it true that in the old days of the Olympic games, all military conflicts were suspended for the duration of the games?

    How can Putin show his face in the ceremony whilst the forces and attacking Georgia?

    Spirit of Olympic games...

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  • 17. At 10:56pm on 10 Aug 2008, ifizzle wrote:

    To sammy - yeah, fair enough, sorry, I did mean UK as opposed to Great Britain.

    To jaksap - how is it hypocritical of me? I in no way (in what I said there at least) endorsed the actions of my government in relation to Kosovo. If you think that our government's actions are truly representative of all of their citizens then you are sadly mistaken. That'd be impossible, anyway, as opinions differ etc.

    And when it comes to crossing boundaries on international law - I think that a few violations doesn't mean that suddenly all international law is invalid. From a pragmatic point of view it could be argued that certain laws do have a higher status than others - the breaking of some laws to be more condemned than the breaking of others. Breaking laws in relation to recognising a country's independence when they aren't legally independent may be considered a lesser offence than intervening militarily as Russia did.

    And I think NATO's actions would on occasion be considered to be more justified purely on the basis that there are more nations that constitute the organisation. However, still illegal, in reality.

    And I don't in anyway endorse the military actions of my country or the West in general. In fact, I think Blair's policy of "ethical intervention" is despicable in its flagrant abuse of international law relating to sovereignty.

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  • 18. At 01:33am on 11 Aug 2008, diggerjohn111 wrote:

    A prime example of how the people who don't wield power should be listened to by our so-called leaders. The Olympic Spirit had never has shined so brightly.

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  • 19. At 02:42am on 11 Aug 2008, Mayuki wrote:

    Plateruena wrote that the name of the country is "The United Kingdom of Great Britain". Dear oh dear.

    I am always amazed at the numbers of British people who do not know the difference between Great Britain and the United Kingdom.

    The correct name is "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland".

    Great Britain refers only to the island of Scotland, England and Wales.

    Does nybody know why the name of the Olympic team makes no mention of Northern Ireland?

    (I'm not from the UK, by the way.)

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  • 20. At 03:09am on 11 Aug 2008, levdavidovich wrote:

    Nice gesture by the two competitors.

    Compare it to the political decision made by Charlton Athletic football club recently when they refused to play a game of football against the Iranian national team because of political differences between the Iranian and Britsh governments. A disgraceful decison by Charlton.

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  • 21. At 09:36am on 11 Aug 2008, SilkieHenLucy wrote:

    Reading these comments make me think, Are we not all in the 'HUMAN RACE' Just for once lets just enjoy the sport, lets treat each other as sporting competitors. Your a long time dead and this life is not a rehearsal so lets make the most of it.
    If you wish to commment on politics, then I am sure you will find a blog somewhere on the net to air your views, So Please lets keep it to sport.
    Or am I wishing for the impossible?

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  • 22. At 09:48am on 11 Aug 2008, MikeFay wrote:

    The GBR designation and name were chosen by the IOC in 1908.

    Nowadays, Northern Irish sportspeople can choose to compete either for Ireland or Great Britain, which is probably why they haven't bothered asking the IOC to change the name.

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  • 23. At 11:01am on 15 Aug 2008, derekjoe wrote:

    To Ferrer:

    You said Russia invading Georgia is worse than UK recognising Kosovo, well I don't really get it. Let's talk about what truly happened.

    First, Kosovo wanted to be independent. Then Yugoslavia tried to prevent it, which led to NATO's bombing and invading.

    Now back to the Caucasus affair. First, South Ossetia wanted to be independent. Then Georgia tried to prevent it, which led to Russia's invading.

    Now most NATO members have recognised Kosovo's indepence from Serbia. But at least Russia hasn't done the same to Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia. I have to say it seems Russia respects the international law a little bit more than NATO.

    And I don't know people in Kosovo have much relation with NATO while many people in South Ossetia are actually holding Russian passports.

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