TBILISI, May 26 (Xinhua) -- Residents of Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, braved torrential rains on Sunday to mark their country's Independence Day.
The new government of the South Caucasus country decided to celebrate this year's Independence Day with other events than a usual military parade. Cultural, sporting and festive events were held in 26 cities and towns across the country including Tbilisi.
On Sunday, all government ministries, universities and major companies in the country presented their exhibition and entertainment corners and stalls in the 26 cities and towns to showcase Georgia's latest development.
In downtown Tbilisi there were also sporting events like basketball, soccer, judo and wrestling, as well as art exhibitions.
Folk singers and dancers put on traditional Georgian costumes and marched through the streets before gathering for a variety show on the Tbilisian boulevard of Rustaveli.
While President Mikheil Saakashvili was away celebrating the Independence Day in Afghanistan with Georgian troops serving in the ISAF, Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili made a televised speech to the whole country.
"We should learn to live in democracy and freedom," said the prime minister. "We are a country of huge traditions, but we almost have no experience of living in democracy. We should all learn it -- both the authorities and the people."
"Democratic values, human rights, EU and NATO membership, mending ties with neighboring countries, de-occupation, establishing rule of law, free judiciary and free media -- these are the issues which are inseparable parts of Georgia's independence idea; these are the main challenges we are facing," he added.
Georgia became an independent state on May 26, 1918.