The İzmir festival took place at the İzmir Atatürk Olympic Stadium, with over 200,000 attendees. The stadium was full, with not a single seat empty. Thousands of others followed the event on giant screens set up outside the stadium and in the city square. One hundred international students from 21 countries fascinated locals in İzmir at the festival.
A total of 1,500 foreign students from 135 countries have come to Turkey for the Turkish Language Olympiad, which is organized by the International Turkish Education Association (TÜRKÇEDER). This year's competition, which is taking place from May 30 to June 14, will predominantly be held in Ankara and İstanbul, but there are also activities in 41 other Turkish cities. The students came together at the İzmir festival and recited poems by famous Turkish poets, sang popular Turkish songs and performed folk dances.
The festival started with a procession of the international students around the stadium in which the students greeted the spectators. A laser show at the beginning of the festival provided a visual feast. Advanced staging techniques were also used at the festival, which fascinated spectators.
The opening speech was given by former State Minister Işılay Saygın, a member of the organizing committee for the 9th Turkish Olympiad. She said Turkish schools play a crucial role in promoting Turkey to the world. “Therefore, I want to thank those people who put this goal into practice. The Turkish Olympiad, which was held with 17 countries participating, is currently held with the participation of 135 countries. This Olympiad, which is organized for the peace and future of the world, is unique in the world. I want to thank the Turkish teachers serving at Turkish schools abroad,” Saygın noted.
Munir Abdu from Tanzania sang one of the most popular Turkish pop songs, “Dudu,” which was appreciated by the audience. Following the audience's request, Abdu performed once again.
Another student the spectators showed great interest in was Arsalan Naseer from Pakistan whose voice is similar to Kurdish singer and composer Ahmet Kaya, who died in Paris in November 2000. The spectators, who applauded Naseer enthusiastically, requested Naseer perform once again. Naseer then sang Kaya's popular song “Giderim” (I go).
During the festival, plaques were presented to some businessmen who provided sponsorship for the event. The plaques were presented by İzmir Mayor Aziz Kocaoğlu, Food, Agriculture and Animal Husbandry Minister Mehdi Eker, İzmir Governor Mustafa Cahit Kıraç and İzmir Chamber of Commerce (İZTO) President Ekrem Demirtaş.
Speaking after the plaque ceremony, Kocaoğlu said international Turkish schools play an important role in promoting the Turkish language to the world. “There are currently Turkish schools in 135 countries around the world. I believe this number will be increased to 155 next year and more in future years. I want to thank the devoted teachers serving at Turkish schools abroad, the sponsors of the Olympiad and other people who have contributed to the event,” Kocaoğlu noted.
Also speaking after the presentation of the plaques, Demirtaş said students from around the world had provided a splendid night of entertainment with their songs, poems and Turkish folk dances. “These international students are very valuable for Turkey, which aims to become a global power. Turkish schools made the biggest contributions when İzmir stood as a candidate to host the world's premier business event, EXPO 2015. We believe they will make the same contributions for the candidacy of İzmir for EXPO 2020 and I hope this event will take place in İzmir,” he stated.
Eker defined the Turkish Olympiad as “a project of love and culture.” Stating that this project had expanded from 17 countries to 135 countries in 10 years, Eker said the Turkish Olympiad is a project of love, tolerance and compassion which is spread across 135 countries on multiple continents. “I want to thank those teachers who are working extremely hard on this project whose main goals are the happiness and peace of humanity,” Eker added. Eker also sent his gratitude and respect to all the people who contributed to the event and also thanked Fethullah Gülen, who has been carrying out a beneficial service both for Turkey and the world.
Meanwhile, a welcoming ceremony was held for the Turkish Olympiad students in İzmir. Students were greeted by a convoy of about 10,000 vehicles at the İzmir Adnan Menderes Airport. The students took a city tour of İzmir in two open-top buses followed by the 10,000 vehicles. The students greeted the people and shouted the slogan of this year's Olympiad, which is “İnsanlık için el ele” (Hand-in-hand for humanity). Locals in İzmir also greeted the students. The İzmir festival was organized by the İzmir Intercultural Dialogue Center (İZDİM). İZDİM President Şemsettin Ayyıldız told Today's Zaman that the people of İzmir showed their appreciation for the Turkish Olympiad students and took them to their hearts.
Another Olympiad event took place in Tekirdağ's Çorlu district on Monday night. Seen by more than 20,000 people, the event included a number of performances from wrestling shows to theater plays.
In addition, former Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Deniz Baykal received several foreign students who came to Ankara for the Olympiad in his office on Monday. Congratulating the students for learning Turkish so well, Baykal chatted with the students, asking a Mozambican student, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The student replied that he wants to be the president of Mozambique. “If God gives me enough time, then I will see you become president,” Baykal told the student. The students then presented a mini-show including poetry and song performances to Baykal. After listening to a poem by well-known poet Nazım Hikmet, Baykal said he was fascinated by the show.