Joy and excitement prevailed at the Türk Telekom Arena on Thursday as tens of thousands of people gathered to watch the outstanding performances of student competitors in the finale of the 10th International Turkish Language olympiad.
A total of 1,500 students from 135 countries came to Turkey for the Olympiad. This year’s competitions commenced on May 30 and finished on June 14. On Thursday night, a group of 290 young performers put on a show in a 16-minute visual feast presented to the audience amidst a stunning light show depicting a world map in honor of the Turkish teachers who have moved to countries around the globe to teach at Turkish schools. The performers wore costumes specially made for the closing ceremony. Animations and images were projected onto a giant screen set on the pitch as an orchestra composed of 50 musicians provided the music for the night. Four giant models of the four different continents from which the students had come were also placed on the stage.
Prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, his wife, Emine Erdoğan, Customs and Trade Minister Hayati Yazıcı, İstanbul Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu and İstanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş all attended the closing ceremony.
Erdoğan, in a speech he delivered during the event, hailed the Olympiad as an effective way to promote Turkish language and culture, expressing his gratitude to the devoted teachers working in Turkish schools in more than 140 countries all over the world. “Turkey is a friend and brother of your country,” Erdoğan said. In an open invitation that received applause from many, Erdoğan invited Turkish-Islamic scholar and intellectual Fethullah Gülen to return to Turkey. “We want to see those who are abroad and longing for the homeland amongst us. We want this yearning to end,” the prime minister said, without directly mentioning a name but openly referring to Gülen, who has been residing in the US for over a decade.