The Fourth Ukrainian Diaspora Olympiad Opened On Friday, the 4th of July
The 4th Ukrainian Diaspora Olympiad’s opening ceremonies took place on Friday, July 4, 2008 at the Ukrainian American Sports Center -- Tryzub", Horsham, PA. Master of Ceremonies, Gene Luciw, announced the parade of athletes, which represented a number of Ukrainian sports clubs and youth organizations. An assembly of young athletes led with traditional bread and salt, flowers for some special guests, and the custom designed Olympiad flag.
This is the second largest group of players. The original Ukrainian Olympiad in 1988 still remains as the largest sports tournament. All of the Diaspora Olympiads have been held in the Horsham, Pennsylvania area. The music of the Los Angeles Olympics’ theme welcomed the over 620 athletes that competed over the course of three days.
The club and youth group teams to enter the playing field in the following order: Whippany Chornomorska Sitch (over 140 athletes and coaches competing at nearly all venues); Yonkers Krylati "CYM" (3 soccer teams); New York "YCK" (two soccer teams). Toronto "Ukraina" (two volleyball teams and swimmers). Toronto "Karpaty" (six soccer teams, swimmers, track and field athletes, and chess players); Cleveland "Lviv"; Chicago "Kryla"(two soccer teams); Chicago ODUM; and Hartford CYM; Whippany LYS Volleyball Club; Chicago Slava Volleyball Club; PLAST- Ukrainian Scouting Organization; and the Buffalo Chess Club.
The host, Philadelphia Tryzub and its Ukrainian Nationals club, entered 7 soccer teams, 4 volleyball teams, swimmers, track and field athletes, chess players, and tennis players. Gene Luciw announced the teams with a greeting and a short history of their organizations and clubs.
Olympiad Chairman, Ihor Chyzowych, warmly welcomed all of the athletes and fans. He thanked them for traveling such long distances to celebrate the Ukrainian sporting spirit, history and culture Festival. Mr. Chyzowych also chaired the previous three Olympiads. The Olympiad Committee worked very hard to organize the competition and festivities into a memorable event.
Mr. Chyzowych then honored the memories of four deceased Olympians – Dr. Alexander Chernyk, Walter Chyzowych, Wolodymyr Ihnatowych, and Zenon Snylyk – with a moment of silence. Myron Stebelsky, president of the Ukrainian Sports Federation of the USA and Canada ("USCAK"), then presented a special award from the University of Rochester to Mr. Snylyk’s widow.
Dmytro Luciw, representative of the Hutsul Society, sounded a welcome on an authentic "Trembita" and Bandurist Kapella Choir soloist, Teodor Bodnar, and then sang moving renditions of the American, Canadian and Ukrainian national anthems. Tryzub’s chapelain, Rev. Yaroslaw Kurpel delivered a soulful invocation and "Tryzub" star soccer player, Stephen Charechko, administered the Olympic Oath in Ukrainian.
The opening ceremonies continued with two folk songs by the Palyschyn Sisters to celebrate this gathering of Ukrainian youth in the Philadelphia area, on the Fourth of July. A running "Tryzub" team composed of Oles Kozak, Michael Wozniak and Stefan Lesiuk relayed the Olympic Flame. Mr. Lesiuk then lit a caldron designed by Steve Kunderewych to the cheers of all. Mr. Stebelsky, after a few words, exclaimed, "Let the games begin!" The athletes paraded from the field towards their venues.
1993 World Champion and 1994 Olympic Gold Medalist Ukrainian figure skater, Oksana Baiul, made a special guest appearance at the opening ceremonies. She won the first Gold medal in history for an independent Ukraine. She spoke about her years as a figure skater and thanked the Ukrainian Diaspora for supporting her spiritually and even financially during her competitive years. She never dreamt that she one day would bring so much happiness into the hearts of her fellow Ukrainians throughout the world.
The players and fans welcomed Oksana very warmly. Gene Luciw remarked to Pani Oksana that teams such as those gathered at the Olympiad preserved "the spirit of Ukrainian sport" in their hearts and through their play on the field of competition, but that it is "…at the exact instant that Ms. Baiul spun into her gold medal that that spirit burst forth into an international flame." Ms. Baiul’s valor in the face of physical pain and adversity "…forever placed into the consciousness of the world that Ukraine ‘is’ and ‘will be’". The power of sport, allied with the strength of Ms. Baiul’s commitment, hard work and dedication", said Mr. Luciw, "gave Ukraine something that no politician armed with a missile could ever award: It gave her a place in the sun of conscience and ideas."
Ms Baiul then introduced the assembly to Serhiy Verbielo and Anna Zadorozhnuk, Ukarine’s 2007 National Champions in pair’s figure skating. They competed in the European championships and are preparing to represent Ukraine in the next Winter OlympicGames.
On behalf of the Olympiad Committee, Mr. Luciw thanked the Philadelphia Ukrainian SelfReliance Credit Union for its princely gift of $ 20,000 to offset the costs associated with organizing and presenting the Olympiad. The Philadelphia SelfReliance was the event’s Presenting Sponsor.