YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–The First Pan-Armenian Games kicked off in Yerevan Saturday–with more than 1,400 athletes from 23 countries participating in the competitions.
The opening events began at the temple of Garni–built by King Drtad I–where Miss CIS-99 Gohar Haroutiunian dressed as Goddess Anahit lit the Pan-Armenian Games Torch. Four generations of athletes–accompanied by motorcycles–delivered the torch to Hrazdan Stadium in Yerevan where the official opening ceremonies of the games took place. Armenia’s legendary Olympic champion Albert Azarian lit the main torch of the Games at the Stadium.
President of the International Olympic Committee Juan Antonio Samaranch addressed a message of congratulations to President Robert Kocharian on the occasion of the First Pan-Armenian Games being held in Yerevan–the presidential press service reported.
"I am certain that the Pan-Armenian Games embracing athletes of Armenia and its Diaspora will contribute to the solidarity of your country and will develop camaraderie," said the IOC president.
On behalf of the Olympic Movement–Samaranch wished all the organizers and participants in the First Pan-Armenian Games the best of luck.
President Robert Kocharian–Pan-Armenian Games organizer Khosrov Harutiunian–Yerevan Mayor Albert Bazeyan and organizing committee president Ashot Melik Shahnazarian were on hand at Garni for the lighting of the torch.
As the torch entered the Hrazdan stadium–the parade of athletes began with flags of the 26 countries represented in the Games accompanied the athletes into the packed stadium. The opening ceremonies was reminiscent of the international Olympics Games.
After speeches by Harutiunian and Melik Shahnazarian–Kocharian took the podium welcoming the athletes from throughout the world–and expressing hope that the Pan-Armenian Games would become a national tradition.
"Today–August 28–1999–I officially declare the commencement of the First Pan-Armenian Games," said Kocharian.
Following the president’s remarks–the athletes filed off the field–throwing hats and flowers to the excited spectators–and making way for the impressive cultural and athletic show. The show–centered on the Hrazdan stadium field included a modern ballet performance–which was followed by the entrance of athletes dressed in Roman warrior outfits on horseback and horse-drawn carriages.
Armenia’s kings Drtad and Varaztad–both champions of the Roman Olympic Games were depicted on a horse-drawn carriage.
The shows were followed by an impressive array of fireworks which lit the Yerevan sky and set the festive tone for Games.