Guess Who Was in Town!

The great David Wallechinsky himself chose to sojourn in Tbilisi for a couple of days to get an extra taste of Georgia. Encyclopedias call him a ‘Populist Historian,’ which he definitely is, and he currently serves as the President of the International Society of Olympic Historians (ISOH). David is also the founder and editor-in-chief of, which provides up-to-date news about more than 340 departments and agencies of the US government. I have a story about this famous American, which I have been avidly telling people in the last week or so: in the past mid-seventies, I was presented a bulky book in English of 1481 pages titled ‘The People’s Almanac’ by David Wallechinsky and his father Irving Wallace. Since then, the book has been sitting on my desk unmoved. The Almanac is the story of the entire world, including just about anything that might stir human curiosity. I have never seen any better reading matter for my leisure, usually counted not in days and hours but in minutes and seconds. I still read and reread it.

The People's Almanac was published in 1975 and became a best-seller with one of the most popular chapters in it about the selection of lists soon turned into a separate edition - one of the most popular books ever, called ‘The Book of Lists.’ I have that one sitting in the corner of my spacious desk too, but behold, fate would have it that I came across another man in Georgia who turned out to be a Wallechinsky fan. The man’s name is Paata Natsvlishvili, the famous Georgian journalist and sports writer, the Georgian Olympic Historian, researcher and poet. I couldn’t believe my ears when he called me the other day and told me that David Wallechinsky himself was going to be visiting Tbilisi for several days as an honorary guest of the Olympic Forum, the mass get-together of all Georgian Olympians of all time, including the family members of those who are no longer around. Without an iota of exaggeration, this was the triumph of Olympic thinking in Georgia, set as an example to the whole world by GNOC(Georgian National Olympic Committee), headed by Olympic Champion and Olympic silver medal winner, five-time World Champion Leri Khabelov and assisted by his tireless lieutenants Elguja Berishvili, Nino Salukvadze - Olympic gold, silver and bronze medal holder, Mamuka Khabareli, Emzar Zenaishvili and Rusudan Aptsiauri.

The event was a huge public sports festivity, involving every generation. The famous Wallechinsky came to Tbilisi to take part in this glorious demonstration of the Olympic spirit in Georgia. His life story says he was taken to the Rome Olympic Games in 1960 by his father, the most delightful fruit of which was The Complete Book of the Olympics. Since then, many following editions were put at the disposal of tens of millions of the world’s Olympic readers. As a matter of fact, the last edition of the book was happily presented to GNOC by the author at the end of a rousing speech at the Gala in the Rustaveli Drama Theater in Tbilisi.

To continue the Wallechinsky saga in Georgia, Paata Natsvlishvili put together a group of journalists, including famous Georgian photo artist Badri Vadachkoria and myself, and we took our new friend to western Georgia. One of the highlights of our trip was the Niko Nikoladze Museum in the village of Didi Jikhaishi. And we had a good reason for this: David Wallechinsky is an Olympic Historian, and who if not he would follow through the life of Giorgi Nikoladze, son of his great father Niko Nikoladze. The historical presumption, constructed by Professor Natsvlishvili, has it that Giorgi Nikoladze might very well be the ‘Unknown French Boy’ who figured as a cox of the winning Dutch team in a rowing event at the 1900 Paris Olympics. Wallechinsky was not indifferent to that piece eyebrow-raising information, having taken it with him to France where he currently resides. Who knows what the future harbors for Giorgi Nikoladze in the hands and future books of this great American. Incidentally, my copy of the People’s Almanac now proudly and expensively carries the author’s valuable autograph. This one will surely go long down into generations as a precious family relic and one of the most unique collector’s items.

By Nugzar B. Ruhadze

05 July 2018 18:25