The Pan-Armenian Games (Armenian: Համահայկական խաղեր) are a multi-sport event, held between competitors from the Armenian diaspora and Armenia. They consist of various competitions in individual and team sports among the Armenian athletes. It takes place in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia.
The Games are open to Armenian passport-holders (irrespective of national origin) and citizens of other countries who have Armenian descent. Spouses of those of Armenian descent are also eligible to compete.
The idea of holding a Pan-Armenians Games was first thought by Soviet diplomat Ashot Melik-Shahnazaryan. He first thought of the idea of organizing universal games for all Armenians while he was on a business trip in 1965 to Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, that was getting ready to participate in the first Pan-African Games. But because Armenia was a Soviet republic and that such an idea was considered by Moscow to be nationalistic, Shahnazaryan had to wait until Armenia attained independence to try and put forth his brainchild.
In 1995, Ashot Melik-Shahnazaryan for the first time publicly announced his intentions to create the Pan-Armenians Games while he was in Paris as a guest for World Games of AGBU. He quickly gained the support of the Armenian diaspora with whom he did not have any contact during Soviet times. The idea of organizing sporting events for all Armenians and the motto of the future World Committee "Unity through Sport" was highly supported by representatives of Homenetmen, AGBU and Homenmen in diasporan cities such as Los Angeles, Toronto, Montreal, Beirut, Paris and many others.
During the founding meeting on April 30, 1997 in Yerevan, World Committee of Pan-Armenian Games (WCPAG) was created, with the help of traditional Armenian unions of the Diaspora and the Iranian-Armenian cultural-sport organization "Ararat". Representatives of state and public organizations of Armenia, NKR and also Armenian communities from Iran, Argentina, Turkey, Australia, Germany, Canada, Cyprus, France and other countries became members. Ashot Melik-Shahnazaryan was elected the first president of WCPAG. He also became the creator of the emblem, cup, medals, almost all the symbols of the organization and also the official anthem and the farewell song of the games.
Today, the WCPAG is a non-governmental, international organization that collaborates with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), UNESCO, the Council of Europe and other international sport units and contributes in developing sport in Armenia.
The Pan-Armenian Games are complex competitions in individual and team kinds of sport among athletes of the Republic of Armenia and athletes of Armenian origin from other countries. The athletes from various parts of the world represent the cities in which they come from and not countries like other pan-games. The Pan-Armenian Games take place mainly in Yerevan, Armenia. The sports played during the games are football, mini-football, basketball, volleyball, swimming, badminton, tennis, table tennis, chess and athletics.
The first Pan-Armenian Games took place from August 28, 1999 to September 5, 1999. Delegations from 62 cities and 23 countries participated in the games. The second Pan-Armenian Games took place in 2001, followed by the third one in 2003.
In 2003, it was decided to transform the Games into once every four years (instead of once every two years). The fourth Pan-Armenian Games were held in 2007. This decision was then subsequently reversed, and the dates for the 2009 games are 8 to 16 August.
The fifth Pan-Armenian Games were held in Yerevan, Armenia, from the 13th to the 21st of August 2011.