Although there has been an increase both in sport facilities and in the number of people participating in sporting activities, experts note that the increases are still not enough and that people have not adopted a lifestyle which includes sports.
The state is doing a great deal on its part to promote sports by supporting various sports activities and providing funding for sport centers and facilities, according to Esra Şentürk, a sports trainer at various centers.
“The state is taking more and more measures to develop the physical and mental health of Turkish citizens of all ages and is encouraging the spread of sports among the masses. For example, the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality has established a number of sports parks [outdoor sports equipment] with the aim of encouraging people to be more active. I find this very useful. These pieces of equipment are both free and practical as people get to do sports outdoors, breathing in fresh air,” says Şentürk.
Indeed, in recent years, more investment has been made in sports, providing every district with at least one sports complex. In addition, more events and competitions have been held.
The main aims of the state’s sports policy are to prepare suitable sports environments to encourage every individual of any age to engage in sports activities and to achieve greater success at international sports competitions by increasing the number of national athletes. However, an important increase in the number of sports facilities by private organizations and sports clubs has been credited with increasing the marketing of sports and sponsorship in recent years. About 10 percent of the total number of sport facilities in Turkey belong to the private sector. Moreover, as İstanbul has been selected as the European Capital of Sport in 2012, sporting events are expected to reach a peak this year.
Şentürk thinks the main reason behind people’s interest in sport is people’s sensitivity towards their health and appearance.
“These are all interlinked: the increase in sports facilities, the increase in educated people and the increase in people doing sports. But according to my observations, people have generally become more sensitive and attentive towards their health and they want to look fitter. I don’t think the majority of people doing sports have adopted a sporting lifestyle; they mostly start doing sport in the spring with the aim of looking fit in the summer, but many give up some time later. This goes on; they start and give up throughout the year. We can observe this by looking at the registrations at sports centers. So I don’t think people have succeeded in becoming conscious of the benefits of sport, but it is definite that there has been an increase in people’s interest in sports and it is quite an improvement for now,” she said.
Although football is the most popular sport in Turkey, with basketball, volleyball and wrestling (which is considered an ancestral sport) following it in order of popularity, relatively slow forms of exercise such as Pilates and yoga have also become more and more popular in Turkey. Şentürk explains it by saying, “This makes us think that more popular sport activities such as football, basketball and wrestling are mostly male activities; whereas the recent increase in Pilates and yoga indicates that females have started to worry about their health and appearance as well.”
However, the motivations for doing sport are not only in improving health or losing weight. Sport, for some, is a hobby which helps them relax and release stress.
Nature Research, Outdoor Sports and Rescue Society board member Hakan Gönendik says there has also been an increase in outdoor pursuits. Organizing the Anatolian Mountain Marathon, Gönendik said that when they launched the project in 2000, only about 30 people attended the marathon, whereas now more than 200 people take part. “We don’t give big prizes or anything. We only give a small cup to the winner. And about 70 percent of the participators cannot complete the marathon anyway. So this makes us realize that the main motivation of participants is purely the enjoyment of it. This is a challenging marathon for them. People are competing with themselves more than they are competing with each other. Some are more ambitious; they practice for a year for the marathon. And some participate only to enjoy themselves. But the common point for all participants is, of course, being more engaged in nature,” Gönendik said.
Turkey is also ideally located for particular outdoor sports such as rafting, scuba diving, windsurfing, ballooning, caving, climbing, skiing, trekking and bird watching. İstanbul Sunday’s Zaman