Opening ceremony signals start of the Mersin Mediterranean Games
MERSİN - Anatolia News Agency
A total of 25,000 people gathered in Mersin Stadium for the grand opening of the games. AA photoThe 17th Mediterranean Games held in Turkey's southern Mersin province started with a lavish opening ceremony June 20 that saw the attendance of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge, among other officials.
The endangered loggerhead sea turtles that inhabit Mersin and Cleopatra, who once sunbathed near the town centuries ago, were the main protagonists of the opening ceremony for the games, which adopted the slogan "three continents, one heart."
A total of 25,000 people gathered in Mersin Stadium for the grand opening of the games, which will be held from June 20 to 30.
Erdoğan said during his opening remarks that the games were seen as a rehearsal for the 2020 Olympics, which Istanbul is bidding to host.
"By hosting the Mediterranean Games we are in fact rehearsing. We are preparing for the 2020 Istanbul Olympic Games," Erdoğan said during the ceremony.
Erdoğan also said Mersin had prepared for the games in record time, as the event was assigned to Turkey after Greece dropped out in January 2011 due to its economic crisis, despite four years of preparation. "All these facilities were prepared in 18 months," Erdoğan said.
The Turkish prime minister ended his remarks conveying messages of peace, saying the Mediterranean brought the people that inhabited the region closer together. "The Mediterranean is peace, it is warmth, love, sharing, solidarity, friendship and brotherhood. The Mediterranean is the framework of our family," he said.
Famous pop singer Ajda Pekkan also took the stage at the end of the ceremony.
Turkey is hosting the Mediterranean Games for the second time in its history, after the İzmir Games in 1971. About 6,000 athletes from 32 different sports and 24 countries are set to participate to the games in Mersin.