In 1915, the Turks managed to attain their goal and exterminate an entire nation by depriving it of its historic land, wealth and the right to live. However, the Turks did not succeed in the most important – they were unable to break the will and the strength of the Armenians, destroy their national identity and spirit.
Armenians continued to develop sports traditions after the Armenian Genocide in 1915, in the way they used to before that.
The last part of Mediamax Sport’s “Armenian Athletes and the 1915” series reflects on the rebirth of sports after the Armenian Genocide and the history of Pan-Armenian Games.
Revival of life and inter-orphanage Olympic games
The days following the Armenian Genocide were unspeakably hard and difficult. Everything had been turned upside-down and deviated from its natural course. A new beginning was needed.
Thousands of children remained homeless and lonely – they had nowhere to go; they were completely alone in the whole world. At this fatal moment, a number of organizations stretched out a helping hand to thousands of children. They established orphanages and assumed their care.
Photo: “Marmnamarz” periodica
Various orphanages established in Constantinople united in Guleli’s Central Children's Home. The sports and scout movement of the Armenian General Union of Body Culture (Homenetmen) inspired love for sports among children in the central orphanage. Athlete Buzand Kyozipyoyukyan was training around 1500 children.
Although Armenians did not manage to hold Armenian Olympic Games and take part in the Olympics because of the Armenian Genocide, they held their own sports competitions even in the orphanage. Known as Inter-Orphanage Olympic Games their name and nature were beyond doubt unique. The games were organized with the support of Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople Zaven Ter-Yeghiayan. He also attended the award ceremonies.
Pan-Armenian Games are the best evidence of unity
Armenians scattered around the world could not give up the idea of their own games. Just like their ancestors and grandfathers competed in the first Armenian Olympic Games in the hill of Freedom in distant 1911, so they wanted to persist with the sports traditions and demonstrate their own potential.
84 years after the Genocide, Armenians held a great sporting event which came to be known as Pan-Armenian Games. The idea to hold these games belongs to eminent diplomat Ashot Melik-Shahnazaryan.
The opening ceremony of the first Pan-Armenian Games took place at Hrazdan Stadium in August 23, 1999. The flame relay of the Pan-Armenian Games started at Garni Pagan Temple. Olympic champion Albert Azaryan was given the honor of lighting the torch.
The then President of the International Olympic Committee Juan Antonio Samaranch sent his congratulatory message on the start of the first Pan-Armenian Games. He expressed the confidence that the Games would unite various Armenians in Armenia and the Diaspora and would preserve the sports values and would be played under the conditions of fair competition.
The opening of the Games was a real celebration for the capital city, its residents and foreign guests. Yerevan had long not been that festive, vivid and happy. Around 1200 athletes from 22 countries had turned capital Yerevan into a sports arena. They were competing in seven sports (football, basketball, volleyball, athletics, tennis, chess and table tennis) not only to win the collection of 37 medals drawn, but also to be awarded the desired title of the first winner of the Pan-Armenian Games.
The Games held every four years stirred up such enthusiasm and zest that the Organizing Committee of the Pan-Armenian Games decided to hold Winter Pan-Armenian Games as well. The first Winter Pan-Armenian Games took place in Tsakhkadzor in 2014.
Presently, it’s impossible to picture the sporting life of Armenians without Pan-Armenian Games. It resembles a ring calling Armenian young people from Diaspora home and maintaining links with the Motherland.
Pan-Armenian Games will be held this year on the occasion of the remembrance of the Armenian Genocide Centennial. The 6th Pan-Armenian Games will be the best evidence of the infinite power of Armenian people, their unbending will, tenacious nature and unity.
Gohar Nalbandian, Hasmik Babayan
The article features quotes from the following books - “Armenian Sports and Physical Education in the Ottoman Empire” by Hayk Demoyan and “The Input of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire” by Hasmik Stepanyan.