The Sixth Pan-Armenian Games have opened in Yerevan, bringing together over 6,300 athletes from Armenia and Armenian communities abroad.
The Games, currently held every four years, are designed to foster closer relationships between Armenia and its far-flung Diaspora.
Armenia is an ethnically homogenous country that has a population of about 3 million. But twice as many ethnic Armenians are believed to live abroad. Most of them are descendants of survivors of the 1915 massacres in Ottoman Turkey that more than two dozen governments of the world as well as many historians recognize as the first genocide of the 20th century.
Athletes coming from several dozen countries of the world will compete during 10 days for medals in as many as 17 sports, including soccer, mini-soccer, basketball, volleyball, tennis, table tennis, swimming, track and field athletics, chess, badminton, cycling, shooting, arm-wrestling, golf, handball, beach volleyball and sport dancing.
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian welcomed “our Diaspora sisters and brothers to Mother Armenia” as he addressed the opening ceremony held at the Vazgen Sarkisian Republican Stadium Sunday night.
“When organizing the Pan-Armenian Games, our first goal was to ensure the broadest participation so that sports and healthy lifestyle reach every one of us. Moreover, it is very important for sports to unite people and become one of the realities consolidating our people all over the world,” he said. “I am confident that you keep these central values burning in your hearts.”
When the first Pan-Armenian Games were held in 1999 the number of athletes participating in the events was just over a thousand. The geography of the Games was also less extensive as it included only 23 countries and 63 cities, compared to 36 countries and 175 cities today. Sixteen years ago athletes competed only in 10 sports.
“Many of you represent already the 4th or 5th generation born in the Diaspora. There are people among you who have visited their homeland for the first time. There are people who find it hard to speak in Armenian. But Armenia is always in their soul, and Armenia’s heart is open to them,” President Sarkisian said in his speech, as quoted by his press office.
“All the people present here are bound together by one commonality – the Armenian identity. No matter how many new and different additional strata of identities are added, Armenianness, being Armenians is our mother identity. It is that very identity that in this year marked by Armenian Genocide commemorative events makes us repeat the slogan of 2015 - I Remember and Demand.”
In 2014, Armenia also hosted the first Winter Pan-Armenian Games.