When the 1st International Turkish Language Olympiads were launched in 2003 by Dilset, a publishing house, the goal was to reward students who excel in learning Turkish and to courage others.
Back then, 62 students from 17 countries took part in the event. Since 2006 the International Turkish Education Association (TÜRKÇEDER), a civil society organization, has undertaken the job of holding the Olympiads. Currently, the event continues in its ninth edition across Turkey with a boost in the number of participating nations and students. One thousand students representing 130 countries are taking part in the Olympiads this year.
Themed after Yunus Emre’s famous call, “Come and let’s get acquainted,” the Olympiads gathered the world in Turkey to get to know each other under a common language, Turkish. The concept has included peacemaking over these nine years as well.
According to Tuncay Öztürk, the deputy chairman of TÜRKÇEDER and general secretary of the International Turkish Language Olympiads, the motive behind the event is to bring the youth of the world together for peace with an eventual goal of promoting world peace.
Öztürk says the language of Turkish serves peace in the Olympiads. “Helping to build dialogue bridges between the countries of the world is our goal. We thought it could be well achieved via Turkish. By building these bridges, we know them, and they know us,” he told Sunday’s Zaman.
In general, the Olympiads can be seen as the reflection of “beautiful services,” including the Turkish schools opened by Turks, inspired by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, around the world, Öztürk noted. “The Olympiads are part of efforts at dialogue and the schools’ efforts to promote love and peace in the world,” he added.
Students who represent their countries are selected by local administrators. If the number of Olympiad contenders is high in a country, the students have to take part in competitions, and those coming in first earn a berth in the Turkey competition. After they arrive in the country, the students face another competition, this time to take part in the top contests, the song and poetry finals. A student from Tajikistan came first in the song contest and a student from Georgia won the poetry contest on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.
For the past two years, all regions of Turkey have embraced Olympiad students as the top three students in the competitions are invited to join the touring groups, which will perform in a total of 24 provinces. Three tour groups have been formed this year. Each group follows a different route, delighting the spectators in different cities stretching from east to west. Many people enjoyed unique cultures of the world for the first time in their lives in these 24 cities, from far-western İzmir to far-eastern Van, from far-northern Samsun to far-southern Adana. The Olympiads continue with their shows, and they will run through the closing ceremony on June 30 in İstanbul.
“We started with 17 countries, now we have reached 130. There is a big demand [to host Olympiad shows] in Turkey. There is also demand from the world [to join the Olympiads]. The halls are not big enough to meet the demand in İstanbul and Ankara. We cannot meet the demand for invitations. Both the content and the expenses of the event get bigger every year,” Öztürk explained.
Olympiads unite Turkey as well
Not only have the children of the world but Turkey also has been gathering under the umbrella of the Turkish Olympiads. Regardless of their worldviews, prominent artists, academics, journalists and public figures gathered at the Turkish Olympiads, a Gülen-inspired event. Among the guests and jury members at the song and poetry contests were producer Sinan Çetin, organizer Ahmet San, dancer Tan Sağtürk, producer Elif Dağdeviren and poets Yavuz Bülent Bakiler and Hilmi Yavuz. Meeting at the contests, they all thanked the organizers of the Olympiads and expressed their support.
“The Olympiads turned into an event that is loved by everybody from every age,” Zaman Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı said in his article. “Maybe the value of the event is not perceived exactly, but future generations will understand it. As they [who do not understand the value of the Olympiads] see youths who are familiar with Turkish folkloric dance, literature and cuisine from around the world, they will appreciate it,” he added.
Prominent media representatives, each appealing people with different worldviews, shared the same feelings when it came to the Olympiads. The Hürriyet daily’s editor-in-chief, Enis Berberoğlu, said the Olympiad students will remember Turkey with love thanks to the Olympiads for the rest of their lives. Türkiye daily’s editor-in-chief said he tries to support the Olympiads, which he believes are very important for Turkey, as much as he can.
When he thanked scholar Gülen for not leaving Turkish nationalism to what he called “those who killed [Turkish-Armenian journalist] Hrant Dink and those who say [they] will kill [Nobel laureate and Turkish author] Orhan Pamuk,” producer Çetin drew mostly positive, but also negative reactions.
The producer was accused of not being sincere and pursuing his interests by thanking Gülen, while he was mostly also praised and applauded. Sağtürk said he believes the sincerity of Çetin. Author and journalist Nazlı Ilıcak stated that she does not believe that Çetin was pursuing his interests as he thanked Gülen.
Published on Sunday's Zaman, 26 June 2011, Sunday