WATERTOWN–Mass–From September 2 -5–approximately 2,500 Armenia’s from the East and West Coasts and Canada gathered for the annual AYF-YOARF Olympic Games–hosted by the Washington Ani chapter.
100 athletes from chapters in Boston–Providence–Philadelphia–Washington–DC–New York–New Jersey–Chicago–Racine–Detroit–Granite City–Fairfield and Toronto competed in swimming–track and field–golf–tennis–and softball games over Labor Day weekend.
On September 1–before the official start of the games–around 150 Armenian-Americans–led by the AYF Eastern Region–held a protest in front of the Azeri Embassy in Washington–DC–calling to attention the ongoing threats by Azerbaijani government officials to use military force to deny self-determination to the people of Karabagh.
That evening–guests of the Olympic games went on a "Monumen’s by Moonlight Tour" around the capital city–which was followed by a party at Blue Gin lounge bar.
The Andrews Air Force Base East Golf Course was the gathering place the following morning–where AYF members and alumni competed in the golf tournament. Matches of tennis also took place that day at Catholic University.
Attendees also enjoyed the opportunity for a tour of Washington–DC organized by the Olympics Steering Committee. Later that night–AYF athletes competed in swimming races in front of a large crowd cheering them on in the stands at Catholic University.
By night–AYF alumni and supporters gathered for the annual alumni dance at the official hotel of the games–Grant Hyatt Washington. Meanwhile–AYF members and guests danced the night away to the music of the Michael Gostanian Enesemble and DJ Terk–followed by performances by Nune Yesayan.
On September 3–AYF members woke up early to start the all-day softball tournament–where teams from New York–Boston–Philadelphia–Washington–DC–Granite City/Racine–New Jersey–Chicago–Detroit–Providence and Toronto battled it out–until around 6:00 p.m.–when the Providence chapter beat out the team from New Jersey in an action-packed final game.
Singer Nersik Ispiryan–along with the Aravod Ensemble and DJ Terk–provided the entertainment for the evening.
"I thoroughly enjoyed the variety of music we heard this year. Each musician and band that performed this weekend brought their own unique sound to us each evening and the end result was the same–a jam-packed dance floor," said Washington AYF chapter member Nora Keomurjian.
Track and field events rounded out the athletic competitions–beginning at 9:00 a.m. on September 4–at the Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington. An enthusiastic crowd cheered runners and field athletes–as they competed in relay races and individual races–as well field events including shot put–discus and long jump.
Midway through the day–athletes marched with their teams onto the field for the opening ceremonies. Guests addressing the gathering included ARF Eastern Region Central Committee chairman Hayg Oshagan; Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan; AYF Central Executive chairman Antranig Kzirian; and Armenian Ambassador to the U.S. Tatoul Markarian.
Then–members of last year’s hosting chapter–the Chicago Ararat chapter–carried the torch around the track–eventually passing it on to two members of the Washington Ani chapter–who lit the torch as the official start of the AYF Olympic games. Prior to the running of the torch–AYF athletes recited the Olympic oath–pledging good sportsmanship and to stay "loyal to the traditions of the AYF Olympics and applaud the victor and defeated alike."
On Monday–guests attended a farewell picnic near the hotel. "The games brought our organization together. I felt that everyone participated in the activities and games during the day–and the dances at night. Our chapters were especially united this year–during the protest that we held at the Azeri Embassy before the start of the games," said Greater Boston AYF chapter member Anny Deirmenjian.
Founded in 1933–the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) serves as the youth organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (YOARF). The AYF stands on five pillars that guide its activities: education–political awareness–fellowship–athletics and culture. Moreover–the AYF promotes a fraternal attitude of respect for the diversity of ideas and individuals amongst its membership. Unity and cooperation are essential traits that allow members of the organization to work together and realize its objectives.