2015 AYF Olympics: Memorable Opening Ceremonies

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As far as I can remember there have been Opening Ceremonies at the Sunday Games of the AYF Olympics. After the march of the athletes, the crowd sits patiently, baking in the hot sun listening to the speeches and short remarks. However, every once in a while, a speech really grabs one’s attention.

Steve Almasian’s opening Remarks

I recall Hagop Mooradian’s excellent speech at the Detroit Olympics in 1993. Hagop was one of the few Lifetime Members of the AYF and it was the last Olympics he attended. His speech was one of the best I have ever heard. In his own unique accent and with the enthusiasm he was known for, Hagop eloquently encapsulated the importance of being Armenian, and not only maintaining our heritage but also moving it forward even though we now live halfway around the world from our homeland. He spoke to the youth about the vital importance of the AYF. I am not sure who paid attention, or who was moved by his speech. I certainly listened, and was moved by his words. I should have sought Hagop out and asked for a copy of his speech. Instead, I waited until Hagop passed on and then tried to get a hardcopy or recording of his speech…to no avail. Over the years, that one short speech by one amazing Armenian has stood out in my mind. Perhaps memory has made it bigger and better than it was. Perhaps if I were to read it today, I would be disappointed that I exaggerated the content of it so much. I don’t think that would be the case.

At this year’s Olympics, newly crowned Olympic King Steve Almasian delivered the opening remarks. Once again, the words moved me, and I did not repeat my mistake of 1993. I asked Steve for the speech, which he e-mailed to me. I was aware of how active Steve is in the Providence community, and I have since learned that Steve is a great writer and chronicler of all things Armenian in Providence. He is known and revered for the obituaries he pens as well as the thoughts and memories he shares with an ever-growing e-mail list. May I suggest he start a blog and contribute to the Armenian Weekly?

Here is his short, concise, and perfectly to-the-point speech. I am certain Hagop Mooradian would have been proud.




Opening Ceremonies Remarks

By Steve Elmasan, Olympic King

Serpazan Hayr, Reverend Clergy, the Honorable Mayor Scott Avedisian, representatives of all political and church organizations, Steering Committee members, families, friends, and the athletes of the 2015 AYF Olympic Games,

Being the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, there was talk 18 months ago of not having the AYF Olympics this year. Good thing that it was only talk.

We are here again, showing everyone that we have risen like the Phoenix, and by doing events such as these, we will remain as a people as we have for more than 3,000 years.

On behalf of all the organizations in our community, the Providence ARF “Kristapor” Gomidehoutioun, the Providence ARS “Arax” and “Ani” Chapters, the Homenetmen of Providence, and the Hamazkayin Cultural and Educational Society of Rhode Island, welcome to the Ocean State.

George Herman “Babe” Ruth said, “It’s hard to beat a person that never gives up.”

Oftentimes we are critical of ourselves, wondering why it’s always a struggle to reach our goals in whatever situation we are facing. Someone once told me, “That’s the curse of being an Armenian.” Always striving to do your best, whether in school, at work, or on the athletic fields of play. This is ingrained in us as a people.

Even after living as second-class citizens for centuries on our own historical homelands in Turkish-occupied Armenia, we remained the artists, composers, engineers, blacksmiths, jewelers, farmers, shoe-makers, and teachers, always putting education and trust in the Lord at the very top, even after our worlds crashed in on all of us 100 years ago.

Always keeping in mind the ultimate goal of a free, independent, and united Armenia, with hopes of living off the lands our ancestors worked since well before the birth of Christ. And those lands to the east as well.

It can be trying at times, but if the goal is to do what’s best for the organizations and the community as a whole, and minds are kept open, then reaching such goals are always fulfilling.

On behalf of all our organizations here in the great community of Rhode Island, we wish the best of luck to all our athletes, young women and men from all sorts of backgrounds, who have been keeping this tradition alive for 82 years. The AYF Olympics is something special, whether you are a college athlete or just trying this out for the first time. To feel part of a team with athletes whose blood you share, striving to do your very best—that’s the goal today and tonight, when we will be together as one dancing to our traditional songs.

Let’s continue to strive to always find a way to—in the words of Unger Melkon “Mal” Varadian that hang at Camp Haiastan in Franklin, Mass.—“Make this and everything we do better than it was.”

Source: Armenian Weekly
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