I just got off a video call with Ken and Alexan Topalian. They were sitting outside their home in ProvIdence by their firepit, and I was in my home in Chicagoland. We were all hoisting cocktails and toasting the AYF and the AYF Olympics, which we are missing this year. We caught up, reminisced and waxed eloquent for an hour and 20 minutes. It was awesome, but not quite like being together as we might have been in Worcester.
I am an advocate and devotee of the AYF Olympics. But, I am a rank amateur compared to Ken. His passion is exemplary. He reminded me again on Friday that ours is the longest running ethnic athletic competition in the US even though this is an asterisked year. He also noted that we may be the only organization that actually has permission to call our games the Olympics. It seems that the other Olympics, you know, the international and globally televised one that occurs every four years is a bit touchy about other organizations calling their events the Olympics. Ken noted that is common to see four generations of a family in attendance, and that is something very special and possibly unique to the AYF Olympics.
Friday at the Olympics is about golf, tennis, swimming, and last year in Chicago basketball. I would have probably met Ken, Alexan and Shahan in the lobby, and we would have headed off for golf. I love to get to the golf course when it is just starting, talk to the AYF and alumni golfers and take some photos as they are warming up. I get to ride around in a golf cart with Rich Keshkegian of the Governing Body and take some action photos. Then, I am off to tennis to catch up with the matches there. After several years of doing this, I know the players and their families, and this just adds to the reunion aspect of the AYF Olympics.
After golf and tennis, we either, depending on the timing, go back to the hotel to grab a bite or head directly to swimming. Ah, the chlorine, the humidity, the spectators and the competition. I meet up with our senior photographer Tamar Kanarian. Along with Sona Gevorgian, Tamar takes the action photos while I photograph the presentation of the medals. Tamar has a wealth of photos from her years of covering the Olympics. She posted the best of her AYF swimming photos on Facebook for all to see…all 128 of them. Thank you, Tamar!
At this point, I could easily call it the end of a long day, retire to the room and write the article of the day. I do go to my room but not to write and retire, but rather to shower and dress up for the alumni and AYF dances. At the alumni dance, the Varadian Spirit Award recipients and the Olympics Kings and Queens are named. This is always a special moment to honor our AYF heritage. The host community provides an amazing buffet of our favorite foods. The music is the old-fashioned kind, the unique American Armenian twist on our folk music that is the soundtrack for many of us.
The AYF dance usually starts later. The music is usually a modern headliner, much louder and more energetic. It is great to head there after the Alumni Dance and see the young people having such a wonderful time.
At this point in the wee hours of the morning, it is time to return my room, sift and sort through the photographs of the day and craft an article for the Armenian Weekly. Then after a few hours of sleep, it is Softball Saturday.
I really appreciated the video call with Ken and Alexan. Getseh to the AYF and the AYF Olympics!