Paul Varadian promotes Armenia in the Olympic Games
A unique dining experience
Published: Thursday January 08, 2009
Newton, Mass. - Guess who was invited to dinner in Istanbul by Turkey's President Abdullah Gül.
None other than Paul Varadian, a onetime prominent AYF member from Providence, who has spent the past 15 years promoting World Olympic prosperity in Armenia.
In his role as Chef de Mission (head of the delegation), Mr. Varadian had organized a winter team for the 1994 Olympic Games in Lillehammer by recruiting a couple of Providence athletes - Kenny Topalian and Joe Almasian - for the bobsled.
The two aspirants proceeded to put Armenia in an arena of respectability that year, marking the first Olympic Games with an Armenian flag represented.
What started out as a brief volunteer stint is now approaching 16 years for Mr. Varadian, whether it's been the summer games or winter. Over that time, the memories have been a dime a dozen, including this recent dinner engagement with Mr. Gül.
Mr. Varadian accompanied Armenia's Sport Minister Armen Grigoryan to Istanbul, which recently hosted the General Assembly of 49 nations of the European Olympic Committee. The two represented Armenia and got to discuss matters privately with the Turkish president.
"We discussed our abilities to overcome past differences through sport as highlighted by his visit to Yerevan," said Mr. Varadian. "It was all done in an environment of sport. The Genocide was not discussed. His most important words were that ‘courage' was necessary to accomplish a brighter future for us."
Meanwhile, Mr. Varadian remains bullish toward the future of Armenian Olympics, especially after his team mustered six bronze medals this year in China. It marked the biggest output ever for Armenia.
"Armenia has a strong future in the Games, much of it due to wealthy entrepreneur Gagik Tsurakian, who has personally provided financial support for the athletes," Mr. Varadian points out. "I've been to Armenia several times since 1993, always to promote sport and assist in any way possible."
The 55 year old is no backseat driver when it comes to motivating Armenians and putting them into the limelight. He is general secretary of the Armenia Skating Federation and for many years served on the United States Olympic Committee, representing the Bobsled Federation.
When the Soviet Union became dismantled, Setrak Agonian of New York asked Mr. Varadian to help the fledgling Armenian National Olympic Committee get off the ground.
"At the time, certain individuals were given Armenian citizenship by the government in a deal with the State Department and I was one of them," Mr. Varadian said. "I've marched in many opening ceremonies and lived in the Olympic Villages, meeting so many great athletes I cannot count."
Mr. Varadian has the blessings of his wife, the former Vartus Artinian. The two have been wed 31 years and now live in Newton, Mass., with two daughters, Sonig, 23, and Nevart, 17.
He's competed nationally in archery, rowing, track and field - and internationally for the United States in skeleton, including the World Championships.
For the past three decades, Mr. Varadian has remained the consummate sports entrepreneur, developing the world's largest social network for athletes (www.iamsport.org).
In his travels, he's been to 65 countries and made more than 200 trips to Europe. Mr. Varadian has been head New England judge for Ferrari events and served on the organizing committees for many major sporting events, including USA Track & Field Championships.
During those venerable Providence days when he was a superb AYF athlete, Mr. Varadian would pile up 104 points for his chapter. His late father Haig was Olympic King in 1969, along with all four of his uncles. His mom Anahid remains a community activist in Providence, including ARS Woman of the Year. A sister Christine still holds the AYF long jump record.
"Everything I've ever accomplished in life and sports is due to my parents and my extended Varadian family," he maintains. "At my age, no matter where I go, I'm still proud to be referred to only as Haig's son. My father, with the support of my mother, has had such an impact on sports most people cannot appreciate."
Last year every New England high school championship in every sport was named after Haig Varadian.
As many times as Paul Varadian has mulled retirement, he's returned to the forefront - a life that's more passion than duty. Creating an international stand for Armenia is his biggest attribute. However, an illness to his wife has curtailed much activity.
"Vartus has patiently allowed me to carry out a life that many can only dream of," Mr. Varadian admitted.
The die has been cast in what could be a bonanza for future Armenian athletes. But not without certain enhancements.
"We need to branch out beyond the strength and combat sports and include more women," he confirms. "For the winter, it's more of a challenge. But with the improvements in the Tzaghkadzor winter sports complex, there is some hope. The recent reopening of the Yerevan Sports Complex (Hamalir) offers us an Olympic ice surface for our skaters and hockey teams. I'm very optimistic for the year 2014 in Sochi."