On August 8th, 2008 an estimated 50 million people were clinched to their television sets watching the elaborate spectacle of the 2008 Olympics Opening Ceremonies in Beijing, China. Every country cheering for its heroic athletes. Every athlete carrying their country’s honor on their shoulders. For most countries, this event passed by like a New York stock market ticker. However, for Armenia, the Olympics hold a deeper meaning.
For Armenians around the world, the Olympics are a time to come together in unification and to celebrate the country’s history, struggle, significance, and most of all, its freedom. Olympic representation is a symbol of our country’s progress, determination and will. It is a profound moment for Armenians, and it is an event that every Armenian should watch proudly.
For decades up until the collapse of the Soviet Union, Armenians were forced to participate in the Olympics competing under the flag of the USSR. Every medal won was viewed as a Soviet victory, not an Armenian victory, a fact that undoubtedly bothered Armenians greatly. At home, Armenians were forced to watch sporting events of foreign countries with the hope that they will find at least one Armenian competing.
Yet, it was not until the 1994 Winter Olympics Games in Lillehammer, Norway, and the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia that Armenia was able to represent herself on an international stage. Finally, a chance for Armenians to wave their flags, cheer, and rejoice, as a free and independent nation. Listening to the announcer say “Armenia” into the microphone, listening to the television broadcaster talk about Armenia’s athletes, and listening to the crowd in the arena’s cheer, can send chills down any Armenian spine.
This year, newly elected President Serzh Sargsyan, who holds great relations with the Chinese government, personally attend the Opening Ceremonies. More importantly, this year Armenia has 25 athletes participating in 7 sports. Among their staples, which include weightlifting, boxing, shooting, and wrestling, three more sports have been added to their arsenal for 2008: judo, swimming and athletics. With every Olympics, new events are added to the list, which undoubtedly serves as a testament to a dedication towards progress.
The underlying aspect of Olympic participation is not winning gold, or breaking records, rather it is the significance of competing on an international stage, as a free country. It is showing the world that although our numbers our weak, our will is endless, and as a nation we have persevered for so many years. Although the Olympics will not get us Genocide recognition, although it will not return to us our lands, it is still a symbol of our country’s existence, strength, and independence.
It is for this reason that we must watch the Olympics proudly. It is for this reason that we must tirelessly support our courageous athletes. And it is for this reason we must cheer, shout, and cry when we see our colors displayed on international television, or when we hear our country’s name repeated over and over and over again.