The children also entered the Guinness Book of World Records for being the first 500 people to cut a ribbon at any opening ceremony at the same time.
More than 500 students from around the world who traveled to Turkey to attend the ongoing Turkish Olympics released doves into the air yesterday to send a message of peace.
The doves were set free for the opening ceremony of the finals of the fifth International Turkish Olympics, bringing together Turkish learners from 100 countries around the world in a fun competition. Perhaps the most symbolic message the students gave for world peace was hundreds of students cutting the ribbon to open the ceremony at the same time, a world record confirmed by the representative of Guinness World Records to Turkey, Orhan Kural, who was at the opening ceremony.
İstanbul Education Director Ata Özer welcomed the guests in his opening speech and said the students should always consider Turkey their second home. Former football player Uğur Tütüneker and Galatasaray player Ayhan Akman as well as many İstanbulites participated in the opening ceremony.
Last year’s winner of the singing category, Harissa Murtic from Bosnia and Herzegovina, launched the ceremony by entering the area with a Turkish flag in her hand. Hundreds of students, dressed up in their colorful national costumes, released the doves in their hands as Harissa handed the Turkish flag in her hand and a bouquet of flowers to Inrareque Khalau from Mozambique, this year’s winner of the song category.
One of the highlights of the opening ceremony was a spectacular folk dance show from Georgian students that mesmerized the audience.
Following the opening ceremony for the finals, guests had the opportunity to look at the stands of the participating countries.
‘I am here because I love Turkey’
Milica Pekovic, a young Serbian who speaks excellent Turkish -- despite the fact that she’s been learning for only five months -- handed out specialties from Serbia. She started learning Turkish because she loved the country after visiting the southern coast twice on holiday. Ivana Bakalovic, standing next to Milica, explained, in Turkish, how she could have become nearly fluent in such a short time. “It takes a lot of effort. We study six days a week, for two hours each day.”
Their teachers, Adem Kaya and Melek Koç, from the Beyza Language School in Belgrade, said that Serbians are increasingly getting to know Turkey, mostly due to its tourist attractions. “We currently have 35 students of Turkish in our school,” Kaya told us.
Abdurrahman Felah, 13, a Turkmen attending the Çağ Kolej in Kirkuk, northern Iraq, said he was very happy to be in Turkey. When faced with the question of what it like is to have to go to school in an environment of frequent clashes and bombings, he says: “It is difficult. Sometimes we can’t get to school because the roads get blocked.” But doesn’t he get scared? “We are now used to it,” he answered in a relaxed matter. We asked him what he would like to do when he grows up. “I would stay out of politics,” he said. “I want to do charity work when I’m older.”
Isabelle Vesale from Trolhattan, a small Swedish town, is 15 years old. She’s been learning Turkish for three months. In the Turkish Olympics, she read out the poem “Mirrors” by Turkish poet Necip Fazıl Kısakürek. So what did she think of Turkey before coming to here and has anything changed her mind now? “I thought it would be hot, and it is hot,” she humorously replies, but then gets serious and adds, “Turkish people are really nice.”
Aiming for all the countries of the world
The coordinator responsible for the contests, Abdullah Yiğit, said they hoped to have students from as many countries as are recognized by the United Nations. “We are probably going to have students from 120 countries next year,” Yiğit said.
He said most outside commentators had praised this year’s organization as being much better than last year’s. “We are getting better. Everything went wonderfully this year. The organization was so much better; many congratulated us.”
Yiğit said the attention shown by the press to the events has also been more intense than ever in this year’s competition. “News stories on the Turkish Olympics were printed in all newspapers in Turkey this year.”