It is a pleasure to arrive at the Olympics on a Thursday—no lines! You get a chance to talk to the organizing committee before things have gotten too crazy and hectic. The only athletes around are those playing golf and tennis on Friday. All in all, it is the only laid back part of the Olympics experience.
Upon arriving at the beautiful Marriott Downtown, the first people we saw were Harry and Claire Kushigian of Providence. They were seated outside, almost as if they were waiting for us to arrive. It was a pleasure to be greeted by an Olympic King!
The Welcoming Desk was indeed… welcoming. They were well-organized and ready, passing out red, blue, and orange welcome packets with the requisite schedule of the weekend, directions to the venues, a dining guide, and, upon request, the “ad book.” It is always a pleasure to get the ad book, filled with a collection of adverts and announcements from organizations all across the community, on the first day of Olympics. If first impressions count—and they do—the quality of the welcoming desk experience, and the most impressively thick ad book, speaks to the focus and hard work of the organizing committee.
As we checked in, we ran into friends, old and new. Rich and Athena Kanarian were there with Rich’s brother Stepan. They were looking forward to the Alumni Golf on Friday. Mike and Armene Varadian, the Keshkegians, Daron Topouzian, and Steve and Jeff Hagopian were all there. It was a great surprise to see Garo DerKaloustian from Chicago, as well as a Hyortik alumnus and his sister, Shoghig, in the lobby. We also ran into the Providence Men’s tennis point scorers from last year Hagop Taraksian, Nareg Mkrtchian, and Garo Tashian.
Almost on cue, while we were checking-in, we got a text from Rich Berberian: “Come on up to the Concierge Lounge on the 23rd floor.” We dropped our bags in our room and headed up there to join in on the first of many gatherings of the weekend, where many of our friends were present to greet us. Being all of a certain age, we asked about each other’s children and grandchildren, but eventually, as one might expect, the topic shifted to reminiscing about Olympics past, as far back as Worcester in 1975.
The only planned event for Thursday, was a gathering at the Hard Rock Café across the street from the hotel. There was a great back room bar area reserved for the AYF. They had food and drink. Shant and Raffi Massoyan from New Jersey performed, alongside DJ Tac Tics (a.k.a. Chris Bekmezian of California). The Massoyans played American pop-music from a wide range of genres and eras. Shant took centerstage on guitar and vocals, and Raffi was on drums. They were, in short, awesome. The room was packed with folks from every generation, but clearly favoring the generation of current AYF-ers. It was great fun.
Upon returning to the hotel and just before going to sleep, I perused the ad book, and the first page I encountered displayed a lovely photo of a couple by the ocean. The caption read: “Thank you AYF for letting us meet. She said YES!” Though there were no names, I knew the couple in the photo: it was Hrag and Ani. That capped the day perfectly.
All photos courtesy of Mark Gavoor, Sona Gevorkian, and Tamar Kanarian.