Georgia takes aim at Russia's 2014 Winter Olympics

* Games to be held 20 km (12 miles) from rebel Abkhazia

* Georgia recalls 1980 protest over Soviet Afghan invasion

* Abkhazia hopes to provide building materials, housing

TBILISI, Sept 9 (Reuters) - Defeated by Russia in war, Georgia says it wants to force a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Russian resort of Sochi near the Moscow-backed rebel region of Abkhazia.

The ex-Soviet republic, its military routed in five August days last year, hopes to emulate the U.S.-led partial boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, which saw dozens of countries refuse participation.

“The Olympics ... are a symbol of peace,” Akaki Minashvili, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Georgian parliament and an ally of President Mikheil Saakashvili, said this week.

“It’s simply contradictory for a country which in the 21st century changed borders by the use of force and ethnic cleansing to then host the Olympics.”

The Games are due to be held in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi, 20 km (12 miles) from Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia region. Abkhazia expects to provide construction materials and housing for Russian workers, much to the annoyance of Georgia.

Russia recognised the sub-tropical sliver of coastline as independent in August last year, after repelling a Georgian assault on the country’s other rebel territory, South Ossetia. Georgia’s attack began on the eve of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, after days of fatal clashes between Georgian forces and separatists and years of tension between Moscow and Tbilisi.

Russia responded with airstrikes and an offensive that saw tanks push to 40 km (25 miles) from the Georgian capital. Its forces have consolidated positions in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, despite a European Union ceasefire requiring forces to pull back to pre-war positions.

U.S. ally Georgia, framing the conflict in Cold War terms, says the West must do more to make Russia loosen its grip.

But there is no sign the United States -- trying to “reset” relations with Moscow under President Barack Obama -- or Europe will risk ties with energy giant Russia by boycotting the Games, a pet project of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.


“In 1980 almost the same thing happened with Afghanistan,” said Minashvili. “The policy of the Soviet Union and modern Russia is the same. If the Olympic committee doesn’t cancel the Games, we’ll try to persuade our partners to boycott. We have to begin now in order to achieve our goal.”

The Georgian Olympic Committee and the Foreign Ministry said they were warning allies of the risks in holding the Games so close to Abkhazia and the North Caucasus republics of Chechnya and Ingushetia, where Russia faces an insurgency.

“Security conditions are insufficient in the location where the Games will be held,” Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Nalbandov told Reuters. “This location is very close to the occupied territory.”

“Besides security issues, we are worried about ecological security,” he said. “Huge amounts of building materials are being taken from Abkhazia, threatening the Black Sea coastline.”

A row over Georgia’s seizure of ships trying to deliver goods to Abkhazia has also raised fears of naval skirmishes, with Abkhazia threatening to “destroy” Georgian boats.

Neither the Sochi 2014 Olympic Committee nor Olympstroi, which is developing Sochi for the Games, would comment on Abkhazia’s involvement or Georgian attempts at a boycott.

The initiative has support among ordinary Georgians.

Mixo Kochakidze of Georgian design company Ultragroup hopes to issue a 2014 calendar of posters based on the five rings of the Olympic flag. The images will include five gun barrels, five bullet holes and five headstones, alongside the emblem of the Sochi Olympics. The slogan reads: “Blockade Sochi!”

“I guess I wanted to have a fight with the Russians,” said Kochakidze. “The Olympics are the proudest Games, and Russia simply doesn’t deserve to be proud of itself.”

But Abkhazia says it is looking forward to capitalising on its proximity to the Games.

“Abkhazia will contribute to its construction by supplying materials - gravel, sand and cement,” Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba said by telephone from the Abkhaz capital Sukhumi.

With the budget stretched by the global crisis, Russia’s lower house of parliament has said that 100,000 Russian workers -- equivalent to half the population of Abkhazia -- would be stationed in, and commute from, Abkhazia, where rent is cheaper.

Additional reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman, Darya Zhdanova and Gleb Stolyarov in Moscow; writing by Matt Robinson; editing by Mark Trevelyan