More than 5,000 athletes from 145 cities from around the world converged on the Shahumyan National Stadium in Stepanakert for the festive opening ceremonies of the 7th Pan-Armenian Games, marking the 20th anniversary of the event, which takes place every four years.
Artsakh President Bako Sahakyan was joined by Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan; speakers of the parliaments of Armenia and Artsakh, Ararat Mirzoyan and Ashot Ghulyan; and the Primate of the Artsakh Diocese Archbishop Parkev Martirosyan.
The event has gathered the delegations of 145 cities. Russia has a large delegation, with368 athletes, followed by the United States with 308 athletes and Artsakh with 298 athletes. The delegation from the farthest country is the group from Australia with 86 athletes. The smallest delegation is from Sweden with one athlete. Armenia’s cities and regions were also represented with Yerevan boasting nearly 400 athletes followed by the Shirak Province with 177 athletes.
The official torch lighting ceremony was headed by Olympic champion Hrachya Petikyan, Archbishop Martirosyan and and Vice-Chairman of the World Committee of the Pan-Armenian Games Albert Boyajian. They each carried the torches that were lit earlier this summer—the first at at the Holy Mother of God Armenian Church in Vakif, a village on the foothills of Mousa Ler in modern-day Turkey and what is historically part of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia; the second at Khor Virap in Armenia and the third at Tigranakert in Artsakh.
In his remarks, Artsakh President Sahakian said that the idea to host the Pan Armenian Games in Artsakh was first announced in 2016 immediately following the April War, to show the world the resilience, drive and courage of the Armenian people.
“This is a unique response to aggression and violence. Embodying strength, willpower, organization and unity, sports is at the same time the antithesis of hatred and hostility. It recognizes no borders and discrimination, unites different nations and countries,” said Sahakian.
“Nobody is a guest here. Everybody is at their home—in their ancestral hearth. Welcome to Artsakh,” said Sahakian. “This is the strength of our people, the power of our unity, the spirit of our victories.”
Pashinyan also echoed the sentiments, adding that Armenia, Artsakh and the Diaspora have the strength to conquer all challenges facing our nation. The games, he said, were the symbol of our national victory.