Thursday at the AYF Olympics

The AYF block at Nationals Park

Our flight from Chicago landed in D.C. at 4:30 p.m. We collected our luggage and took a cab to the Renaissance Hotel.

I always wonder who will be the first AYFers I see at the Olympics.  We walked into the hotel, and seated in the lobby were Andrew and Madonna Kizirian and Gloria Keleshian.  We got in line to check in behind Phil and Alidz Nigon and their adorable sons Zaven and Raffi. Cousins Vahan and Garo Hovannisian from Los Angeles stood in front of them.  Steve Hagopian greeted us with his two precious granddaughters.  

We had arrived at the Olympics.

Phil, Alidz, Zaven and Raffi Nigon

Yet there was no time to sit and chat. We had an hour to unpack and board a bus full of Armenians to a baseball game. The Washington Nationals were playing the Florida Marlins. Ara Sarajian, who used to work for the Nationals, had arranged for a block of tickets for the second year in a row. Last year was a blast, so I bought four tickets for my wife Judy and me along with our son, Aram, and our khnami Yervant.

While walking around the seating area at the Nationals Park, I saw four young men who looked like they might be Armenian. Two of them wore San Francisco Giants shirts. I stopped to chat, and unsurprisingly, they were Armenians from San Francisco. It was a pleasure to meet Sahag Derounian, Shaunt Avetian, Johnny Khatchadourian and Garin Derounian.  

It was the perfect night for a ball game, and we had even more fun this year. We were seated on the Gallery Level, where people can mingle and eat at stand-up tables. We were all so happy to see each other and catch up. I don’t think we went to our seats until the fourth inning! Even at our seats, we all socialized more than watching the game. We did see a couple of home runs, some good defensive plays and a few errors as the Marlins beat the Nationals 6-1.  

On the bus to the Nationals game

Back at the hotel, the lobby was full of people we know from Jersey, Philly, Boston, Providence and more, catching up and enjoying the laid back atmosphere that is Thursday night at the Olympics. We ran into Rich and Nora Sarajian, Ara’s parents. Rich was excited to introduce me to two young fellows from Australia…and I believe they are competing! My mom, sisters and nephews came from Detroit to see my nephew Jacob play tennis tomorrow. 

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The Olympics begin in earnest on Friday. I am leaving the hotel at 6:15 a.m. to watch several hours of golf. Then, after watching tennis followed by swimming matches, we will cap off the night with the Alumni Ball where the Kings, Queens and Varadian Spirit Awards will be presented. On Friday, AYF members will also join “SOS Artsakh!” to protest Azerbaijan’s blockade of Artsakh. The march will begin at the Renaissance Hotel at 1:30 p.m. and conclude at the White House. We embrace our Armenian American heritage and culture exemplified in the AYF Olympic spirit while supporting the plight of our people in Artsakh.

Mark Gavoor
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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