By Sareen Habeshian
The seventh Pan-Armenian Games will take place in Yerevan and in Stepanakert from August 5 to 17. For the first time in its 20 year history, the opening ceremony, along with a portion of the games, will take place in Nagorno Karabakh.
Flame lighting ceremonies in Musa Dagh, Turkey, in Tigranakert, Karabakh, and in Armenia’s Khor Virap Monastery marked the start of the games on June 24. The three flames, symbolizing Armenia, Karabakh and the Diaspora, will be united in Stepanakert during the official opening ceremony on August 6.
Teams from neighboring Turkey and Iran will not be participating this year since the games will partially take place in Karabakh.
Days before the start of the games, rumors began to spread that Turkey and Iran will not be participating this year since part of the event will be held in Karabakh. The organizers, however, note that the rumors are part of Azerbaijani propaganda, and Iran and Turkey are in fact participating.
Karabakh is a disputed territory, bordering Armenia and Azerbaijan. It is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but is governed by the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh Republic). The republic is a de facto independent state with a majority ethnically Armenian population. Armenia and Azerbaijan have been in ongoing peace talks, mediated by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group since the ceasefire in 1994.
People who visit Karabakh are marked personae non gratae in Azerbaijan and permanently banned from entering Azerbaijan.
The competitions include badminton, arm-wrestling, basketball, golf, tennis, swimming, beach volleyball, handball, cycling, shooting, futzal, chess, table tennis, sports dances, volleyball and football. In total, there are 13 women’s events and 14 men’s.
The 7th Pan-Armenian Games will conclude on August 17, with a closing ceremony in Yerevan’s Freedom Square.
The first Pan-Armenian Games were held in Yerevan in 1999 and occurred every two years, but now occur every four years.