Saturday,25 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1259, (20 - 26 August 2015)
Saturday,25 November, 2017
Issue 1259, (20 - 26 August 2015)

Ahram Weekly

No losers in this championship

Despite its diminishing number, the Armenian community of Egypt showed up in numbers at the sixth Pan-Armenian Summer Games, Nora Koloyan-Keuhnelian reports from the capital Yerevan

Pan-Armenian Games
Pan-Armenian Games
Al-Ahram Weekly

“You old nation’s new generation, Haig and David’s power you took, take it with you to the Olympic Games and rise above all.”

With those inspiring words renowned Armenian singer Leila Saripekian made an appearance in Freedom Square at the closing ceremony of the sixth Pan-Armenian Games that took place in the capital Yerevan from 2-13 August.

“Armenian athletes be faultless, be victorious, let our anthem ring proudly, let our flag wave eternally, victorious and be always obliged to your people,” Saripekian recited. “We are watching you with hopes, as we believe in you, be lions, be eagles, always rise up high. Glory to our motherland, glory to our athletes, glory to our nation. Long live Armenian athletes and blessed coaches, may God support you all.”

Prime Minister Hovik Aprahamian declared the official closing of the games, telling the audience that there were no winners or losers in these games, and that everybody was a winner “as the Pan-Armenian Games is a symbol of unity. The most important achievement of the games is bringing together the sons of our nation to our homeland,” Aprahamian said.

On 2 August Vazken Sarkissian Republican Stadium in Yerevan, built in 1935 with a seating capacity of 15,000, hosted the opening ceremony of the sixth Pan-Armenian Games in which President of Armenia Serge Sarkissian welcomed the players and spectators.

More than 6,000 athletes from Armenia, Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) and the Diaspora took part in the games, an unprecedented number during a year in which Armenians are commemorating the centennial of the genocide committed by Ottoman Turks in 1915.

Under the slogan “United with sports”, one of the major features of this year’s games was the unprecedented participation of 800 athletes from Western Armenia: Sassoun, Mush, Diyarbekir, Vakif, Bitlis, Dersim, Malatia, Van, Samatia and Istanbul.

Athletes representing 180 cities from, among others, Armenia, Turkey, Russia, Lebanon, Iran, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, England, Jerusalem, Kuwait, Cyprus, Greece, Argentina, Brazil, France, the United States, Canada and Australia competed in 17 sports during the 11-day tournament. The sports included soccer, futsal, basketball, volleyball, tennis, table tennis, swimming, track and field, chess, badminton, cycling, shooting, arm wrestling, golf, handball and beach volleyball. Up until the fifth Pan-Armenian Games in 2011, only 10 events were held.

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 was 80 -- 55 representing Cairo and 25 Alexandria. Both cities took part in men and women basketball competitions, while Cairo took part in futsal and tennis as well.

The Cairo men’s basketball team ended in ninth place among 38 teams that took part in the tournament. Cairo played six matches and won four. They defeated Isfahan Iran, Akhalkalak Georgia, Koteliniki Russia and North Hollywood, 49-46, 107-62, 77-66, 73-72 respectively. Bourj Hammoud Lebanon and Sotchi Russia beat Cairo 92-75 and 81-47. In 2009, the men’s basketball team finished third among 16 teams, while in 2011 they ranked seventh out of 24 teams.

 “I consider this a big achievement,” team coach George Torossian told Al-Ahram Weekly. “In the past only two basketball teams used to take part from the US while this year there were six teams taking part in the games. Iran and Russia, too, took part with at least three basketball teams this year. Those countries have the biggest Armenian communities, while Egypt’s is getting smaller,” Torossian said. According to Torossian the best and most difficult game that the Cairo basketball team faced was with North Hollywood since the United States is considered one of the pioneer countries in the game. But Cairo, with its 18 players, was a winner this time, led by team manager Armen Baltayan.

In futsal, or five-a-side football, Cairo played five matches and won three, beating Strovolos Cyprus 4-0, Urmia Russia 9-0 and Novocherkask Russia 10-5. The team captured third in their group. “The best performance was our match against Ainjar Lebanon although we lost that game 5-4,” said futsal team manager George Simonian who said he was satisfied with the decisions taken by the referees.

Sixty futsal teams took part in the games this year. “It is not fair that 44 teams come out of the tournament from the first round, which makes almost 75 per cent of the participant teams,” objected Simonian and team coach Ara Avedissian. Cairo futsal team had 15 players. “We are satisfied with our players’ performance. The ages of our 13 players ranged between 15 and 50. They were all amateurs while some of them were here for the first time. Our trainings started in April.” The futsal team’s coach, manager and the players were obviously proud after one of the assistant coaches of the Armenian national football team approached them about possibly signing up one of the Cairo players, Levon Frunjian.

The Cairo women’s basketball team played three matches against Ainjar Lebanon, Marseille France and Los Angeles. They were winners over Marseille 78-6. As for their game against LA that ended 97-26, Cairo coach Marlo Simonian and manager Sosse Guerboyan showed satisfaction despite the defeat as they considered scoring 26 points against the tournament champions a big achievement, especially that Ainjar Lebanon who defeated Cairo 62-46, scored only 16 points in their game against Los Angeles. Twenty-two women basketball teams took part in the games. Cairo was represented by 14 players.

Despite the overall success of the games, some logistical points needed ironing out. Organisers had to announce the schedule of the matches even before the opening of the games, Simonian and Guerboyan said. They also disagreed about the classification of the groups that brought up “some unfair games” regarding the women’s basketball matches.

As for tennis, the 2013 Pan-Homenetmen Games gold medalist Talar Mazloumian beat Washington 6-1, 6-1 after which she suffered a back injury which prevented her from playing the remaining games.

Alexandrians were not so lucky in sports this time but achieved the unexpected: Mary Haroutunian, Alexandria women’s team basketball player, took second place in the Miss Pan-Armenia contest, representing Egypt. “At first I didn’t expect to take any place as I thought it’s going to be a huge competition. But then, the day I was getting ready for the competition I saw the other participants and I just felt fine. It’s time to gain some confidence,” Haroutunian told the Weekly. On the other hand, Egypt's representative at the Pan-Armenian Games Committee Berj Haladjian received a medal of recognition from the President of the Republic of Armenia Serge Sarkissian in recognition of his commitment to the organisation of the games since its inception in 1999.

In June, 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 on a tour that included some of the countries that were taking part in the games.

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. The number of participating countries, and consequently athletes, rose in tandem. In the fifth Pan-Armenian Games, the athletes who took part reached 3,244 representing 33 countries from 125 cities.

A charter flight, Cairo-Yerevan-Cairo, carried 179 Egyptian-Armenian passengers to this year’s games, including the Egyptian sports delegation.

During the games, community members who flew to Armenia were keen to attend the games played by Cairo and Alexandria teams, and cheer for Egypt, the country all 80 athletes were representing. The Egyptian flag fluttered throughout the gamesgames.

When the games ended most athletes and their coaches had mixed feelings about leaving their motherland. As one member, pretty much summing up the feelings of the rest of the delegation, said, “I miss Egypt and I will miss Armenia. I can’t express how I feel now, it’s very confusing. I have two lands where I belong. Both I consider my home.”

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