Sunday at the 2021 Olympics: Stop the Presses

Providence torchbearers Sevan Zobian and Harout Tashian (GVK Images)

If this were a 1930s newsroom, I would be yelling “Stop the presses!  Stop the presses!” For the first time in the history of the AYF Olympics there was a tie. The final tally of the points for the top three chapters is:

  1.  Boston and Providence – 137 points
  2.  Detroit – 133 points.

The games were intensely competitive. I got a call after the track and field from Bob Tutunjian, our expert writer, historian and statistician on the AYF Olympics. He said, “This was the closest Olympics I have ever experienced. It came down to the last three relays with Providence at 132 points followed by Boston with 126 and Detroit with 120.” As only Bob can say, “there was a mathematical possibility for a three-way tie which would be unprecedented.” Indeed it would have been, given there had never been a tie. He went on to note, “It was a wild and intense finish with everyone still there cheering enthusiastically.”

Given how close the results were, they did not announce the results at the games. The governing body and other officials met and pored over the results to make sure they did not err in the point totals. At the Grand Ball, they announced the unprecedented results to a cheering throng: a tie for first and the team in third place being a mere four points behind. Awesome.

Providence and Boston won the games, but after missing the last year, it is appropriate that there should be a tie. Bob also said, “There were 311 athletes that registered to participate. That is the most ever for an Olympics.” Wow. The most athletes ever and the first tie ever in Olympic history. These Olympic Games were a win for the AYF and the AYF spirit.  

The opening ceremonies and Sunday games were streamed live on the AYF Olympics Facebook page.

As for the high scorers, there were three for both the men and women.

Women:

Natalia Oganesian of Providence in swimming
Melanie Sarafian of Detroit took first in the 50, 100, and 200 dashes
Knar Topouzian of Detroit took first in the discus, high jump and shotput

High scorer Melanie Sarafian being interviewed on the live stream broadcast

Men:

David Barsamian of New Jersey in the 800, 1600, and 3200 running events
Nareg Minasian of Boston in swimming
Zach Semerjian of Providence in discus, javelin and shotput

The winners of the Pentathlons were:

Anoush Krafian of Boston
Sasoun Tcholakian of Detroit

An annual tradition: Anoush Krafian (Greater Boston) hurdling over Olympics photographer Tamar Kanarian

There were no records reported at the time of this article.  It must be noted that Anoush Krafian was one point off of tying Allison Aylaian, also of Boston.

The Sunday competition is all Track and Field competition. Track and Field are the roots of the Olympics. They provide the largest number of points that determine the final point totals for the chapters as they certainly did this year. Track and Field draws the largest crowds. The Opening Ceremonies take place at the Sunday Track and Field simply because the opening ceremonies took place on Sunday when the Olympics were only on Sunday. It is tradition and, as I constantly note, the AYF Olympics is rich in tradition. 

Archdeacon Hagop Khatchadourian, Der Kapriel Nazarian of Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church, Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Rhode Island Governor Daniel McKee, State Representative Katherine Kazarian

There is the tradition of the chapters marching around the track led by a color guard. It is wonderful to see the Armenian flags followed by each chapter with a banner with their name on it. The teams gathered on the infield. There was the singing of the national anthems, a prayer and message from Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian, messages from the AYF Central Executive and the sister organizations, the kings delivered the oath to the athletes, and to top it off, Rhode Island Governor Daniel McKee spoke welcoming everyone.

Singing of the anthems

The exciting day was capped off with, of course, the Grand Ball. This is the capstone dance of the weekend.  It is the most attended and always has the best musicians of the traditional AYF style of Armenian music. It is where the winners and high scorers are announced and presented with their trophies followed by the chapter dances.  

The musicians this year were as classic and star-studded as they get:

Mal Barsamian – clarinet
John Berberian – oud
Ara Dinkjian – keyboard
Onnik Dinkjian – vocals
Mike Gostanian – vocals
Jason Naroian – dumbeg
Ron Tutunjian – dumbeg
Steve Vosbikian, Jr. – saxophone 

While there was no live feed, there were a few Facebook Live videos. Here is one that Onnik’s daughter Anahid posted. It is nothing less than one would expect from the caliber of musicians on stage. Other posts showed the dance floor as full as it ever was in the pre-pandemic days.  John Berberian said, “The sound and balance was excellent. We had a very tight sound and the dance was jam-packed with energetic young people enjoying the last dance of the weekend. It was a great to be back on stage at the AYF Olympics!”

John Berberian, Onnik Dinkjian, Mike Gostanian, Ara Dinkjian

To close out this Sunday article, Armenian Weekly editor Pauline Getzoyan had a chance to speak with the Alumni co-chair of the Providence Steering Committee Mark Mesrobian. 

Pauline Getzoyan: How do you feel the weekend has been going so far? And how has it felt to chair the steering committee this time, after so many times in the past, with only about four months to prepare for the Olympics?

Mark Mesrobian: Even though it wouldn’t seem like it, this year was the easiest preparation that we’ve ever had for the Olympics, because we had to do everything in a condensed period of time. We did everything over Zoom only meeting recently in person. And we only had five or six meetings prior to Olympics. And because of that, everybody was so focused. 

P.G.: How many times have you chaired the steering committee as an alumnus?

M.M.: Five times. This Providence AYF is one of the best chapters that we’ve ever had the pleasure to work with, and they’ve all participated. There was pent up demand after 2020 and COVID. It was a tough year for everybody. But I think everybody came together and made it happen. The proof is in the pudding. We’re breaking all records. It was the best and most profitable ad book in AYF history (north of $90,000). It is amazing. And the dances both nights so far have had over 1,000 people. That is unprecedented. Alumni night started off a little slowly because our older community was cautious, and they stayed away. But the youth is energized and ready to have fun.

What an awesome weekend it was all-around!  Thanks to everyone who helped me write these daily updates from afar, especially Leeza Arakelian, Sona Gevorgian and Tamar Kanarian.

Look for more coverage in the Armenian Weekly’s AYF Olympics Special Issue to be published later this month! Click here if you’d like to sponsor a page in the commemorative issue.

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Mark Gavoor is Associate Professor of Operations Management in the School of Business and Nonprofit Management at North Park University in Chicago. He is an avid blogger and oud player.
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