ArmeniaNow.com - Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
February 27, 2004


Sweating on Screen: Healthy living show offers competitors fame through fitness


A TV station hopes to demonstrate that watching people exercise can be a hit with couch potato viewers.

Armenia TV, one of the most popular channels in the republic, plans to broadcast the Club of Healthy Life Style Fans in the spring. Twice a week, the program will show participants competing in various sports such as swimming, bowling, working out, and running in Yerevan 's streets.

The poster of the Club of Healthy Life Style Fans calls everyone to participate.

The winner, however, will be the one that viewers like the best. They will vote for their favorite competitors in a telephone poll. The field will gradually be narrowed over the two months of the show as the contestants with the least support each week will be disqualified.

As well as offering light entertainment, the Club of Healthy Life Style Fans carries a serious political message, demonstrated by the fact that it has the endorsement of President Robert Kocharyan.

The show is supported by the President and the Cafesjian Family Fund, a charity owned by a prominent Diaspora philanthropist. Nike, SAS Group and SIS Natural Company are sponsoring its production.

Ashot Kocharyan, President Kocharyan's press secretary, says the intention of the program is to promote a healthier lifestyle among people.

“The President himself does sports and stands up for living a healthy life. He very much likes to do water sports in summer and skiing in winter. The President also likes to play basketball,” says Kocharyan's spokesman.

Now, Armenia TV is completing the selection of competitors. Program director, Rafael Kazanchyan says more than 1200 people have registered an interest in taking part, ranging in age from 18 to 78.

Only 50 will be selected. Kazanchyan says those chosen have to be over 18, not professional sportsmen, must be comfortable in front of a camera and have attractive personalities with a sense of humor.

Pensioneer Artsrun Babayan, 65, is among the applicants to join the Club of Healthy Life Style Fans. He wants to “try my strength and repulse the years”.

He adds: “When I was young I did karate which has many times been useful in life. And now I'm trying to keep myself in shape and at home I like to work with weights under some rhythmic music.”

Aram Khachatryan, 24, registered out of curiosity. He says: “I used to do rugby before, but now there's a lot of work to do and often there isn't enough time for sports, but it would be very interesting to take part in this show.”

Gohar Kazaryan, 30, is another hopeful. She says: “I like sports very much. I do light athletics and like equestrian sport very much, but I've never had the opportunity to do it.”

Competitors will be expected to give up bad habits during the show. Shooting will last for five hours each day, during which smoking will be forbidden for both participants and the film crew.

Over 1200 people have registered for a Healthy Life Style.

“For me this show is also a sort of a test,” says Kazanchyan. “I want to test my will, to see whether I'll manage to quit smoking by the end of the project.”

Morning joggers remain relatively rare in Yerevan , but smokers can be seen anywhere. Adults and teenagers, men and women smoke in Armenia, at home, in the office, at restaurants, in beauty parlors, traveling on marshrutkas or walking in the streets. Unlike the well-honed morning runner, smokers look a very natural part of Yerevan life.

According to Health Ministry figures, 60 per cent of men and 3 per cent of women smoke in Armenia , though officials admit the true number is probably higher.   Currently some 22,000 people suffer different forms of cancer, including lung cancer. Officials attribute 90 percent of lung cancer case to smoking.

Together with the competitors, however, famous actors, singers, and even politicians in Armenia will be involved in promoting a healthy lifestyle through the program. President Kocharyan himself is expected to present the grand prize, which is so far unannounced, to the winning finalist at the end of the show.

Organizers of the project say the Club of Healthy Life Style Fans will be repeated if it proves a ratings success with viewers. Meanwhile, the streets of Yerevan must brace themselves for the sight of people in sports gear being pursued by TV crews.


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