AGBU Sofia Chapter in Bulgaria Hosts XVII AGBU World Games

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Thursday, August 5, 2004


>From five continents around the world, 350 young Armenian athletes,
future leaders and supporters of AGBU journeyed to the sparkling
shores of the Black Sea in Albena, Bulgaria to represent their
respective countries at the XVII AGBU World Games and cohesively form
one united, global AGBU family.

During the week of July 3rd, attendees from Argentina, Austria,
Canada, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Egypt, France, Italy, Lebanon, Spain, Syria
and the United States passed their days competing in sports while
others participated in the first overseas AGBU Young Professionals


AGBU, a staunch advocate for the development of Armenian youth, once
again succeeded in its ongoing mission to empower the young leaders of
tomorrow. The organization achieves this mission through active youth
programs, such as the longstanding summer camps in Bulgaria, France,
Syria and the United States; the New York Summer Intern Program,
established in 1987; Generation Next Mentorship Program, now in its
seventh year; and FOCUS, a biennial event designed to unite global
young Armenian professionals with alumni of AGBU youth programs. In
the same spirit, the AGBU World Games mobilize its youth on the
international stage.

“The Games are not the end product. The purpose of the program is to
propagate and promote an AGBU spirit within our youth so that they may
later take on responsibilities within the Union. The hope of AGBU is
that the youth will assume influential positions in their local
communities and ultimately make an impact on the Armenian community at
large, “commented Hrant Bardakjian, Chairman of the AGBU Central
Sports Committee.

The inaugural AGBU World Games took place in 1955 in Beirut, Lebanon
and since then, the event has been held worldwide, in cities including
Los Angeles, Sydney and Paris. In fact, the positive outcome of these
Games has proved so popular that AGBU Regional Games are now held
regularly in Europe, the Middle East and South America. After hosting
the XI AGBU European Games in 2002, AGBU’s Sofia Chapter
enthusiastically proposed that Bulgaria host the next AGBU World
Games. Led by Chapter Chairperson Sonia Avakian-Bedrosian and working
closely with the AGBU Central Sports Committee, AGBU Sofia, leveraging
all their community resources, delivered to AGBU’s international youth
community an enriching week of athletic competitions and camaraderie.


Bulgaria, a small country with a population of eight million,
approximately 25,000 to 35,000 of which are Armenian, is situated on
the Balkan Peninsula. The Armenian-Bulgarian community flourished for
centuries economically and culturally, until 1934, when an
authoritarian regime stifled all ethnic expression, triggering the ban
of Armenian political, religious, social, athletic, academic, and
benevolent organizations, including AGBU.

With the fall of communism and rise of democracy in 1989, the
Bulgarian climate improved, prompting significant change in the lives
of local Armenians. However, 45 years of communism had taken its toll
and the AGBU leaders of the community confronted challenges in
reacquainting its community to the organization. Through hard work and
dedication, AGBU reappeared in most major cities (Sofia, Plovdiv,
Rousse, and Haskovo) with a new, fresh emphasis on Armenian culture
and education. To applaud Bulgaria’s commitment to revitalization, the
Union supported its Sofia Chapter’s bid to host the World Games, thus
providing them the important exposure and ties they sought to those
outside their region.

For the AGBU youth of Bulgaria, the opportunity to witness the XVII
AGBU World Games in their home country provided a unique occasion for
them to meet their Armenian contemporaries. “This is really something
exciting. I have never had this feeling before of seeing so many
Armenians in one place. I have made such great friendships and am very
proud to be Armenian,” said Lusine Daduryan, a student from Plovdiv,


Spreading goodwill and welcoming all athletes, AGBU leaders, Bulgarian
dignitaries, clergy, and supporters, the Sofia Chapter kicked off the
Games ceremoniously. Competitors participated in a range of games,
including football, basketball, volleyball, tennis, badminton, table
tennis, chess and swimming.

After a full week of competition, the results were in, the winners
triumphant, and the trophies awarded. Sofia captured the Overall Cup
for winning the most medals at the Games. For respectful conduct and
unrivaled sportsmanship, Karekin Costanian returned home to Cyprus
bearing the Fair Play Cup. In the men’s football division, Cairo
proved victorious in overtime with a final penalty kick to defeat
Nicosia’s renowned Ararat team. Impressing the crowds with their fancy
footwork, the Egyptians participated in the World Games with 41
individuals from both Cairo and Alexandria, the largest
delegation. Beirut’s Antranik basketball team ruled the court by
beating Aleppo’s Al Ouroube team in a professional quality game in
order to win the men’s title, and in women’s basketball Egypt
prevailed, nabbing the gold. The Paris volleyball team captured first
place by winning the finals over Plovdiv. Competitions were also
strong in the singles/doubles sports. For a full listing of the
results, visit


Complementing the athletic competitions, this year’s World Games
introduced the first overseas AGBU Young Professionals (YP)
Conference. Even though the Union’s YPs have convened in the past,
this conference was the first invitation of its kind to the
international young Armenian professional community outside of North

Conducted over the course of three days in English with simultaneous
Bulgarian and Armenian summary translations, the YP Conference
informed its 40 participants of the current Young Professional
movement within AGBU and how AGBU YPs influence and lead their local
communities through volunteerism, commitment, innovation, expertise,
and above all, professionalism. To date, current YP groups exist in
Beirut, Los Angeles, Geneva, Montreal, New York City, Northern
California, Orange County, and Philadelphia.

“A key goal of the conference was to educate and raise awareness to
young Armenian professionals everywhere that volunteering for the
organization adds new dimensions to their lives and prepares them to
become AGBU leaders of the future,” said Lana Kazangian, AGBU YP
Liaison and conference organizer.

The mission of AGBU YPs, which is to provide an environment for young
Armenians to network, outreach, and give a sense of community through
programs and events created under the auspices of AGBU, converges with
the organization’s mission to preserve and promote the Armenian
identity and heritage. To reinforce YP goals and objectives, two AGBU
YPs from Los Angeles and New York City were present to share best
practices and their personal experiences with volunteerism.

“This international Young Professionals conference was a tremendous
experience and opened my eyes to how Armenians around the world in
similar age ranges thrive in their native countries. The discussion
group I mediated brought to the table the different challenges facing
young Armenians. It is events like this that make our people a nation
despite dispersion and I am thrilled that AGBU has kept vigil to
ensure that Armenians stay connected and make progress,” said Cynthia
Simonian, Chairperson of the YPLA group.

In Europe, where the YP movement still has much opportunity for
growth, Nicolas Tavitian, Director of AGBU European Programs,
confirmed that the demand for YP chapters in Europe is enormous but
untapped. The conference addressed many challenges and through the
open exchange of ideas in workshops and roundtable discussions, the
meetings explored options available to members seeking to initiate YP
groups in their communities. Ms. Kazangian found the results of the
conference encouraging, with YP growth potential cited in Sofia and
Plovdiv, alongside other cities in Europe, the Middle East and South
America. For more information on AGBU YPs, visit the AGBU web site at
or e-mail [email protected].


Since the close of the Games, AGBU Sofia Chairwoman Sonia
Avakian-Bedrosian has been contacted by multiple AGBU Chapters and
members from around the world to express their appreciation for a
superbly executed event. In acknowledgment, Mrs. Bedrosian said that
much of the success of the Games is attributed to the hard work,
commitment and dedication of her Organizing Committee, key sponsors
and supporters within Sofia. She thanked the international members of
the XVII World Games Committee in Canada, France and the United States
for their diligence, as well. “All Committee members experienced
great satisfaction while preparing for the XVII World Games as we feel
that uniting our youth is a very important element in our mission.
Moreover, witnessing our young members forge strong friendships during
the athletic competitions and YP Conferences was a wonderful
reward. We were grateful for the opportunity to host the AGBU family
in Albena and look forward to participating in more global
activities,” Mrs. Bedrosian expressed, reflecting on the Games.

Discussions and bids for the next AGBU World Games in 2006 have
already commenced and since the XVIII World Games is to coincide with
AGBU’s Centennial, all expectations are that it will be a showstopper
not to be missed. To look at more photos or to learn more about the
AGBU World Games, please visit:

AGBU () is the largest international, non-profit Armenian
organization in the world, and is dedicated to preserving and
promoting the Armenian heritage and culture through humanitarian,
educational, cultural and social programs that serve some 400,000
Armenians annually.