Traditionally, the people from the area of today´s Georgia always appreciated physical activities and sports, which remained as an essential element of life for this people up to this day. The most popular sports in Georgia today are football, rugby union, basketball, wrestling as well as weightlifting. However, polo is also one of the well-liked as well as traditional Georgian sports such as lelo and khridoli. Lelo which is also called lelo burti is a Georgian folk sport, similar to rugby and the main reason why rugby union is among the most played sports. The name lelo burti in literal translation means field ball. Khridoli, on the other hand, is a traditional martial art, which along with lelo burti was listed as a nonmaterial monument of culture by the government of Georgia.
Football is, definitely, the most popular sport in Georgia, and Europe in general. All competitions, and men´s and women´s football teams, as well as national futsal teams, are organized and governed by the Georgian Football Federation or GFF. The Georgian national team had their first match in 1990, while this country was still part of the Soviet Union. In 1992, both UEFA and FIFA accepted Georgian Football Federation as their member, offering them the chance to play competitive matches. The first match after UEFA and FIFA acceptance was in September 1994, when Georgia lost the match to Moldova 1–0.
Huge Rugby Fan Base
Rugby union in Georgia is considered second most popular team sport. Georgia hosted national competitions such as Rugby World Cup, Rugby World Cup Sevens, IRB Sevens World Series, and European Nations Cup. This sport is particularly popular because of its resemblance to lelo burti. Therefore, Georgian national rugby union team has the nickname Lelos.
Even though Georgia is the country small in size, it has produced some of the greatest basketball players such as Tornike Shengelia, Vladimir Stepania, Nikoloz Tskitishvili and finally, Zaza Pachulia. Through the past several years, the people of Georgia supported their national team, traveling even to Lithuania to cheer for their team at the 2011 EuroBasket. The Georgian federation or GBF was founded in June 1991. Since 1992 they are a member of FIBA. The Georgian national basketball team had their first official game against Poland in 1995.
Wrestling is also one of the most important sports. According to some historians, this sport, especially the Greco-Roman style of wrestling, includes many Georgian elements. Today, one of the most popular styles of wrestling is the Kakhetian style among others. Up to this day, Georgia has 40 Olympic wrestlers.
Georgian Judo Federation is one of the most successful sports organizations in the country, producing a significant number of athletes every year. For example, in the last Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Georgia had a total of eight judokas in different weight classes. Among them were London 2012 champion Lasha Shavdatuashvili as well as world number 1 Avtandili Tchrikishvili. It is also important to mention that, Esther Stam became the nation´s first female judoka. She competed in women's middleweight competition (70 kg). Besides, the judo team was named to the Olympic roster in June 2016.
2016 was also notable because that was the year when Georgian National Olympic Committee sent the nation's largest Olympic delegation until then. A total of 40 athletes, 30 men, and 10 women were competing in twelve categories. In addition, Georgia made its Olympic debut in flatwater canoeing, men's tennis, women's judo, and women's weightlifting.
Georgian team came back from 2016 Summer Olympics with seven medals, just like from 2012 Summer Olympics in London. However, this time they brought two gold medals, one silver, and four bronze.