The Games ended with a message that sports can bring people together.
Two weeks of fierce sporting rivalry among over 4,000 athletes from 56 Muslim countries came to an end with a display of fireworks in Türkiye’s Konya city.
Thursday night’s closing ceremony was capped with the statement of Turkish Minister of Youth and Sports, Mehmet Muharrem Kasapoglu, emphasising that every athlete who participated was a winner.
“There was no loser in this meeting, brotherhood was the winner. Unity and camaraderie won,” he said.
Türkiye dominated the competition, ruling the tracks and fields and showing outstanding performances in swimming, kickboxing and athletics, bagging the highest number of gold, silver and bronze medals.
Upsetting the usual favourites, Uzbekistan clinched the second spot with its athletes performing notably in weightlifting, judo and wrestling.
Previously, Türkiye, Azerbaijan, and Iran have shared the most medals, but this year, Uzbekistan disrupted the status quo and climbed up the ladder.
While the competition was fierce and athletes gave their all to win gold for their countries, Kasapoglu reiterated the importance of unity, solidarity and strong cooperation.
“Godwilling, from now on we will raise our cooperation in both the sports and youth fields to higher levels in order to strengthen our unity and solidarity.”
Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Sports Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki al Faisal, who is also the president of the International Islamic Solidarity Sports Federation (ISSF), echoed Kasapoglu’s sentiments in his remarks.
“More than 4,000 male and female players representing 56 countries participated in the games. So, thank you, for sending a clear message to the whole world,” he said.
“Solidarity is our name, peace is our language, honorable competition in sports arenas is our way.”
Prince Faisal expressed his gratitude to Türkiye for hosting the Games that brought the sport fraternity together in Konya. “We are pleased to have held such a meeting after the hardships that the world has faced due to the pandemic,” he said.
Top shots from the fifth Islamic Solidarity Games in Konya:
Four decades of solidarity
The Islamic Solidarity Games were first held in 2005, but its idea was conceived much earlier in 1981 during the Third Islamic Summit Conference convened by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, or the OIC, in Mecca.
The summit carried a symbolic weight as it coincided with the advent of the 15th century of the Hijri era. To welcome a new Islamic century, Mecca was specifically chosen as the venue and the inaugural session took place within the bounds of the Grand Mosque.
It was there during that conference that Prince Faisal Fahd Abdulaziz, spearheading Saudi Arabia’s General Presidency of Youth Welfare, called for the formation of a specialised organisation for the development and organisation of sport in OIC member states.
Four years later, in 1985, the OIC sent invitations to member states to attend the constituent assembly for the foundation of ISSF in Riyadh, which was reciprocated with the participation of the representatives of 34 national Olympic committees, paving the way for the federation to come into being.
Late Prince Faisal’s idea came to fruition 20 years after the formation of the ISSF, when the first Games set off in four Saudi Arabian cities – Mecca, Medina, Jeddah and Taif – with a total of 7,000 athletes from 54 countries flexing their skills in 13 competitions.
Alan Hubbard, a sport columnist for the Independent, wrote while covering the event: “Other than the Olympic Games themselves, no bigger multi-sports extravaganza has ever been staged.”
Since 2005, the Games have travelled from the deserts of Saudi Arabia to the banks of Musi River in Indonesia’s Palembang, to Baku in Azerbaijan, and now arriving to Türkiye’s Konya – the resting place of Mevlana Jalaladdin Rumi and the former capital of the Seljuk Empire.
Originally, the Games in Konya were supposed to take place in 2021, but social restrictions stemming from the coronavirus pandemic forced it ahead by a year. The sixth Islamic Solidarity Games would be staged in Cameroon in 2025.