AGBU XVIII World Games Takes Montevideo by Storm, 1,000 Participate

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

AGBU XVIII World Games Takes Montevideo by Storm, 1,000 People Participate

The XVIII AGBU World Games took place in Montevideo, Uruguay, from
July 7 to 13, 2008, with athletes and guests pouring in from Antwerp,
Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, New York,
Pasadena, Sao Paolo and Toronto. Organized by the local Chapter, the
weeklong event included numerous sporting competitions, cultural
performances, social outings and a sold-out Gala evening on Saturday,
July 13, attended by AGBU President Berge Setrakian. In all,
approximately 1,000 individuals participated in this biennial event
aimed at providing a platform for the organization’s athletic groups
to engage in friendly competitions and bringing together Armenian
youth on a global level.

Montevideo’s AGBU Community

One of the Armenian diaspora’s smaller communities with a population
of around 15,000, Armenians in Uruguay are concentrated mostly in the
capital city. They are third- or even fourth-generation descendants of
the first wave of immigrants, many of whom sailed from historic
Armenia. AGBU established a Chapter there in 1938 and inaugurated a
community center complex in 1953. Between 1974 and 1975, the Chapter
established an educational center which was completed in two phases:
first to be completed was the Nubarian Elementary School in honor of
the founder of AGBU, Boghos Nubar; then came the Alex Manoogian High
School, named after the then AGBU President. The construction of this
complex has been made possible, thanks to the generosity of the
organization’s local benefactors, Misak and Arpiné Kouyoumdjian, the
local Chapter, and the AGBU Central Board of Directors. The Montevideo
branch currently supports these two schools, a community center and
two gymnasiums, all of which and more are located on extensive
grounds. In addition, the Chapter works alongside numerous committees
to keep the community excited about their heritage: youth, sports,
scouts, choir, and, most recently, a budding Young Professionals

The AGBU Montevideo Chapter is chaired by Hagop Chamikian, who was
thrilled by the enthusiasm the event generated in the local community:
"It was heartwarming to see so many local supporters, both young and
young at heart, coming to our Center every day this week to watch the
competitions and interact with our global guests. I feel confident
that the Games have helped bring about yet another rebirth in our
Chapter and inspired new Armenians around us to become more involved
with AGBU. In addition, I would like to thank all of the individuals
from the participating Chapters who worked diligently for the many
months leading up to the Games to organize their teams and ensure
their participation."

Last year, a special committee, chaired by Ruben Topalian, was
appointed by Chamikian and the Chapter to organize the AGBU XVIII
World Games. It continued to work tirelessly until the last guests
were sent off at the airport. Said Topalian: "I would like to thank
all those who worked and made this week of celebration possible. It
was delightful to have a little slice of Armenia in our midst and I
hope that everybody took a piece of that back home with them, as well
as a positive image of Uruguay’s vibrant Armenian community."

Let the Games Begin! Exciting Opening Ceremonies Set Tone for Entire

Monday, July 7, marked the official start of the Games with the
Opening Ceremonies at the AGBU complex on Agraciada Avenue in the
Uruguayan capital, located just blocks away from the Presidential
Palace. Approximately 800 athletes and supporters jammed the bleachers
in the gymnasium and cheered loudly as each delegation marched in with
its national flag. Highlights of the evening included welcoming
remarks by His Excellency Vladimir Garmirshalian, Ambassador
Plenipotentiary of Armenia to Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay;
AGBU Central Board Member Ruben Kechichian of Buenos Aires; and AGBU
Montevideo Chapter Chair Hagop Chamikian, who recognized World Games
benefactor Albert Boyajian with a plaque. US Ambassador to Uruguay,
His Excellency Frank Baxter, was also present with his wife. A
multimedia cultural presentation tying together the histories of
Armenians, AGBU and the Montevideo Chapter was designed exclusively
for the event, and included video projections, modern and tango dances
and a unique interpretation of the AGBU anthem.

Going for the Gold: Bring It On!

Whether it was the Los Angeles and Pasadena teams cheering on their
North American counterparts from Toronto or the marching band drums
and shouts from the far corner of the gym in favor of Buenos Aires,
there was a fun, competitive spirit in the air all week throughout the
AGBU complex in Montevideo. At least 400 athletes participated in
basketball (men’s and women’s), volleyball (men’s and women’s), and
soccer (men’s) team sports; and swimming, table tennis, chess and
backgammon individual tournaments. Players dribbled, bounced, kicked,
and ran to vie for their chance at AGBU gold. In the end, even the
non-victorious teams were treated like winners as everyone became
friends in the stands.

Culture Always on the Evening Itinerary

The World Games Committee planned a number of events for athletes and
guests almost every night to provide cultural and social
entertainment. On average, each event attracted around 350 guests. On
Tuesday, July 8, a special concert was held at the Radisson Hotel
featuring the Montevideo Philharmonic Orchestra. Heightening the
ambience of the performance was the fact that the conductor, Alvaro
Hagopian, is not only Armenian, but a graduate of the local AGBU
Nubarian and Manoogian schools. Maestro Hagopian conducted a
repertoire of tango pieces for the first half with a tango couple
bringing the music to life on stage, and selections from Aram
Khachaturian’s "Gayane Ballet" for the second portion.

The night of Friday, July 11, culture enthusiasts gathered for a
spectacle featuring the AGBU Montevideo Choir "Grung," the AGBU
Cordoba Dance Group "Ararat" and the Armenian National Center of
Uruguay’s "Gayane" Dance Group. Maestro Alvaro Hagopian led the 35
vocalists in "Grung" through a number of popular Armenian songs. The
"Ararat" Dance Group, which was established over 20 years ago by
Elizabeth Gezokaraian Erezian, performed her choreography to the music
of Ara Gevorgian and also executed the famous pyramid
dance. Fittingly, the "Gayane" group danced to selections from the
"Gayane Ballet." The event was held at the prestigious Ancel Hall.

In addition, two social events were held on Wednesday, July 9. The
first was a dinner and show at El Milongón to introduce guests to the
local culture. The venue featured live music and dances from both
tango and traditional Candombe genres, the latter having dominated
Uruguay’s culture for 200 years. For late-night revelers, a club night
kicked off at Central at midnight and kept going until dawn with a
vibrant mix of Armenian and progressive music keeping dancers on their

An Elegant Gala Evening to Wrap Up a Week of Victories

The five-star Radisson Hotel, situated on Montevideo’s historic Plaza
Independencia, hosted a sold-out crowd of 540 guests on Saturday
night, July 12, for the closing Gala banquet. Winning teams brought
their championship cups to display on their tables, and everyone was
in a celebratory mood to toast the successful close of yet another
World Games. AGBU President Berge Setrakian was present to witness the
festivities alongside Central Board Member and Buenos Aires Chapter
Chairman Ruben Kechichian; Montevideo Chapter Chairman Hagop
Chamikian; and Chairmen from sister Chapters: Ricardo Erezian
(Cordoba), Zaroohi Der Mugrdechian (Fresno), and Krikor Manukian (Sao
Paolo). The program began with MC’s Cynthia Cristina Takessian and
Socrates Yamgochian welcoming everyone, and continued with World Games
Montevideo Committee Chairman Ruben Topalian who spoke about the
meaning and thrill of having hosted the AGBU games. Chamikian also
addressed the audience and then presented gifts of appreciation to
lifelong AGBU members Hrant Bardakjian of Toronto and Hratch Manoukian
of Nicosia, both of whom have been driving forces in AGBU
athletics. Special recognition was bestowed upon Topalian for his able
chairmanship of the Games, and Valeria Momdjian, Executive Secretary
of the 2008 World Games Committee, who served as a key player in the
organization of the endeavor. Closing remarks were offered by
President Setrakian, who stated that the evening did not signify the
end of the Games, but rather the start of many new friendships
spanning the globe.

The Gala lasted until the early morning with a diverse array of
entertainment provided by the Yerevan 50 and Dzirani bands. The
Yerevan 50 Band was initiated in 1971 by members of the AGBU
Montevideo Scouts group of the same name. Today, this musical ensemble
has achieved major recognition among all the Armenian communities of
South America. The second band, Dzirani, was formed by young members
of the AGBU Cordoba Chapter just a few short years ago. Both groups
kept the dance floor full the entire night with their renditions of
popular and traditional Armenian music, and applause filled the entire
room continuously during a presentation of photos taken during the
entire week.

And the Winners Are…

While the main trophy presentation ceremony took place in the
complex’s gymnasium on Saturday afternoon, three special cups that
define the true meaning of the AGBU World Games were presented at the
Gala. The first one was for Friendship, which was awarded to the Los
Angeles/Valley delegation and accepted by its leader, Jano
Baghdanian. The second cup, won by the Toronto delegation, was for
Fair Play, and the final cup, given for having the Best Armenian
Spirit, brought the Cordoba delegation to the stage. On the
competition side, the home team of Montevideo took the gold in Men’s
Basketball, and the Pasadena team won the championship in Women’s
Basketball. To see the full results from all games, please visit:

Additionally, more photos from the World Games can be viewed at the
official AGBU website:

Since 1955, the AGBU World Games has brought together thousands of
youth from around the world to engage in sporting competitions and
create lifelong bonds. Over the years, the endeavor has been held in
numerous major cities, such as Beirut, Buenos Aires, Geneva, Los
Angeles, Paris and Sydney. The positive outcome of these Games has
proved so popular that AGBU Regional Games now take place regularly in
North and South America.

For more information about AGBU and its youth program, please visit

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS