PASADENA–The 23rd annual Navasartian Games were officially declared open at a special ceremony at Pasadena High School last Sunday–as hundreds gathered to witness the traditional lighting of the athletic torch to signify the beginning of the two-month festival and games dedicated this year to the 80th anniversary of Homenetmen.
The torch lighting ceremony had actually begun hours earlier–at the Montebello Armenian Martyr’s Monument–where Homenetmen’scouts conducted a flag ceremony to mark the beginning of the tournament.
Present were members of the Homenetmen Central and Regional Executive–17 athletes representing every Homenetmen chapter–organizing committee members–community members and invited guests.
The ceremonial torch was blessed by Montebello reverend Khoren Baboshian–after which Regional Executive president Mher Tavidian lit the torch and presented it to the first athlete.
The torch was then transported from Montebello to Pasadena–being passed from runner to runner over the 14-mile course until it entered Pasadena High School at 6:30 p.m.
Even earlier in the day–the Navasartian Games kicked off its athletic schedule at 8 a.m. with a series of basketball games–followed by an exhibition by the Homenetmen Pasadena "Azadamard" chapter’s karate team.
Following the arrival of the torch in the evening–all 17 Homenetmen chapters paraded into the stadium with their athletes as some 1,000 supporters watched.
The Pasadena "Azadamard" chapter scouts conducted a flag ceremony to open the event–after which referee Edik Grigorian–representing all referees who will oversee the athletic games–swore to be fair and honest in all games.
On behalf of the scores of athletes who compete in the games–Alin Abrahamian took the athletic oath–promising to compete fairly and with integrity at all times.
Reverend Nareg Pehlivanian–a former Homenetmen’scout master himself–blessed the games on behalf of Bishop Moushegh Mardirossian–Western Prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America.
Master of Ceremonies–Garbis Chekherdemian–introduced the distinguished guests present–which included Pasadena Executive Police Commander Donn Burwell and police department representative Greg Afsharian–who personally oversaw the safety of the runners transporting the torch from Montebello to Pasadena; Homenetmen Central Executive members Koko Balian and Jirair Sarkissian; Regional Executive president Mher Tavidian; last year’s Navasartian honorary president Therese Kemandjian; ARF Central Committee representative Hovig Saliba; Hamazkayin Regional Executive representative Hagop Ovaian–and 1997 Exemplary Homenetmen member Jack Der Boghosian.
"I am sure that this moment will remain with you forever," said Sarkissian. "Because today we–again–have created an atmosphere of Homenetmen bonding and togetherness.
"The torch itself is a symbol of advancement and perseverance of our people," Sarkissian continued. "And today’s transport of the torch–which began at our martyr’s memorial monument–has special meaning for us all. Although memorial monumen’s have negative meaning–this one symbolizes our people’s struggle for freedom. It reminds us of our past and our future."
Tavidian spoke next on behalf of Homenetmen–and also had words of encouragement for all involved with the games.
"With this ceremony–we have lit the ceremonial torch of the Navasartian games–and with it–have given light to those who have struggled for Armenia in the past," Tavidian said.
"We lit the cup so that Armenia’s citizens–its weak–move towards it with their firsts clenched. We lit the cup to show the path to freedom."
Tavidian–who was quoting from a work by Rouben Zardarian–went on to say that it was because of the Hagopians–the Khoians–the Kristians–the Cherazs and other thinkers that Homenetmen came alive–so that today–on foreign shores–Armenia’s can go on and survive.
"This organization has always backed and served its people. It will continue to do so until freedom rings from the hills of Karabakh–and until our nation is completely free and independent."
Nersik Ispirian sang patriotic songs to end the ceremony–dedicating his first song to Homenetmen.
The 23rd Navasartian Games will continue every weekend at Pasadena and Birmingham High Schools–as well as at Glendale Community College. Closing ceremonies will take place July 4th at Birmingham High School.