Thursday,20 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1252, (25 June - 1 July 2015)
Thursday,20 September, 2018
Issue 1252, (25 June - 1 July 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Armenia’s summer connection

Last week the torch of the sixth Pan-Armenian Summer Games arrived in the land of the Pharaohs. Nora Koloyan-Keuhnelian followed the torch’s path in Cairo

Al-Ahram Weekly

Once again, during its busy schedule, especially this year, Armenia will host the Pan-Armenian Games in the capital Yerevan for the sixth time. Professional and amateur athletes from different parts of the Armenian Diaspora will come together in August in their motherland, creating a special link between the land they never lived in, the countries they currently live in, and with Nagorno Karabagh Republic (NKR), an integral part of Armenia, a land inhabited by an Armenian majority which Azerbaijan claims control over.

Last week, the Armenian community in Egypt received the Pan-Armenian Games torch which, for the first time in the games’ history, flew out of the organising country in a tour that will include some of the countries that are taking part in the games this summer.

A delegation from the Republic of Armenia, together with Cairo and Alexandria Armenian sportsmen who will take part in the games, as well as community members, went to the Giza Plateau for a start-up march that took place at the Pyramids. The torch was first lit on 8 May in Nagorno Karabagh’s Shushi city, the day the city was liberated from the Azeris 23 years ago. After it was blessed in the city’s Ghazanchetsots Church, the torch toured the provinces and streets of Armenia and Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh Republic). And on the sidelines of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, the International Committee of the Pan-Armenian Games decided to send the torch for tours to the countries taking part in the games where Armenians were settled since the massacres committed by Ottoman Turks in 1915.

 After touring the Pyramids Plateau the torch was brought to The Armenian Orthodox Church on Ramses Street where it was blessed, together with the Pan-Armenian Games flag, in a special mass held for the occasion. Present was the Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to Egypt Armen Melkonian.

Celebrations for receiving the torch in Egypt continued at the church’s yard. The community’s two dancing troupes, “Sardarabad” and “Zankezour”, performed traditional Armenian dances. The games’ flag and torch, given to the community’s veteran basketball players to hold and surrounded by “Homenetmen” Ararat Cairo and “Homenetmen” Gamk Alex  scouts and leaders, marched some 500 metres into Ramses Street in a special parade, Egyptian, Armenian and “Homenetmen” flags leading the march to honour the arrival of the torch in Egypt.

In their speeches, both the ambassador and Egypt’s representative at the Pan-Armenian Games Committee Berj Haladjian stressed the important role Egypt played in receiving Armenian refugees in the past. They also showed support in boosting Egyptian tourism that has been affected by terrorist attacks during the past few years.

The Pan-Armenian games is organised every four years. The idea of the games was first thought of by Ashod-Melik Shahnazarian, a diplomat of Armenian origin who studied and worked in Russia. Shahnazarian was on a business trip to the Congo in 1965, preparing to take part in a Pan-African Games. At that time, Armenia was a Soviet state and such an idea was a bit difficult for Moscow to accept. Therefore, Shahnazarian waited until Armenia became independent to be able to make his dream come true. In 1995 he publicly announced his intentions while in Paris attending another sports event. He gained the support of all Armenian Diaspora sports organisations. The first meeting of a committee was held in Yerevan in 1997 where representatives of several communities from around the world were present. Shahnazarian was elected the first president of the World Committee of Pan-Armenian Games and became the creator of its emblem, flag, cup, medals and its official anthem.

The first Pan-Armenian Games was held in August 1999 followed by the second and third in 2001 and 2003 respectively, after which the committee decided to hold the games every four years instead of two. In 1999, 1,141 athletes from 23 countries took part in the games. The number of participating countries, and consequently athletes, rose in tandem. In the fifth Pan-Armenian Games, the athletes who took part in the games reached 3,244 representing 33 countries from 125 cities. This year, the estimated number of men and women athletes who will take part is above 5,000.

According to the Armenian press, this year the number of participants may hit a new record. Chairman of the Pan-Armenian Games International Committee Ishkhan Zakarian stated earlier that the sixth Summer Pan-Armenian Games will be unprecedented not only in the number of participants but also in the geography of the cities where competition will take place. The games will be held in the capital Yerevan, Nagorno Karabagh’s capital Stepanakert, Gyumri, Vanadzor, Apovian and Ardashad.

Egyptian-Armenians showed their keenness in taking part in all six Pan-Armenian Games since its inception in 1999. This year the number of athletes representing Egypt is around 70. They will take part in men and women’s basketball, football and tennis.

This year the games will include 17 sports; until the fifth Pan-Armenian Games in 2011, only 10 sports events were held.

On 2 August Hraztan Stadium in Yerevan will host the opening ceremony of the sixth Pan-Armenian Games while the closing ceremony will be held in Freedom Square on 13 August where the Opera House stands. Seating capacity of Hraztan Stadium is 54,208. The stadium was constructed in 1969 and was renovated in 2012.  

Whether a winner or a loser, this great gathering that will bring together more than 5,000 Armenian athletes, their families and friends, will be more about connecting with a rich culture and heritage. It will also be a good opportunity for many Armenian youths to get acquainted with the roots they belong to and meet various communities.

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