Türkiye is hosting the 5th edition of the Islamic Solidarity Games in Konya. We look at the importance of this mega sporting event.

A splendid display of fireworks and light show lit up the Konya sky last evening as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan inaugurated the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games.

The Games, set to run from Aug 9 to 18, will see in action at least 4,000 athletes from 56 Muslim countries competing in 24 different games, vying for a total of 355 medals.

This latest edition, like previous others, is organised by the Islamic Solidarity Sports Federation (ISSF), which aims to “support the development of the athletes of the Islamic geography and to increase the culture of brotherhood and solidarity among the athletes”.

Turkish athlete Zeliha Agris (right) compete in Taekwondo with El Bouchti Oumaima (left) from Morocco. — Anadolu Agency
Turkish athlete Zeliha Agris (right) compete in Taekwondo with El Bouchti Oumaima (left) from Morocco. — Anadolu Agency (AA)

The participation in the event is not exclusive to Muslim athletes alone. Non-Muslim athletes from any of the member countries are featuring and showcasing their talent in Konya, just as they have done in the past editions.

Before Türkiye, the Games had been staged in Saudi Arabia (2005), Iran (2010), Indonesia (2013) and Azerbaijan (2017). The Tehran edition, however, had to be called off following a dispute between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games Opening Ceremony at Konya Metropolitan Municipality Stadium. — Anadolu Agency
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games Opening Ceremony at Konya Metropolitan Municipality Stadium. — Anadolu Agency (AA)

Laying foundation

The 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 the 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.

Fazli Eryilmaz (red) of Türkiye celebrates after competing against Kaipanov Nurkozha of Kazakhstan in the Wrestling during the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games in Konya, Türkiye. — Anadolu Agency
Fazli Eryilmaz (red) of Türkiye celebrates after competing against Kaipanov Nurkozha of Kazakhstan in the Wrestling during the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games in Konya, Türkiye. — Anadolu Agency (AA)

Late Prince Faisal’s idea came to fruition further 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. 

Such was the splendor of the event that 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.”

Show of unity

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 Rumi and the former capital of the Seljuk Empire.

Turkish President Erdogan welcomed the participating countries and their athletes, and invited all sport fans, especially the youth, to attend the event.

Hissein Brahim Taha, the secretary general of the OIC, attended the opening ceremony and thanked Türkiye for hosting the event. “It is important that Islamic countries hold such events which strengthen intercultural dialogue,” he said.

Saudi Arabia’s Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki al Faisal, who is serving as the head of the Union of Arab National Olympic Committees, also thanked President Erdogan and the Turkish people for hosting the Games.

As part of the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games held in Konya, javelin throwing competitions were held. Nargizakhon Kuchkarova from Uzbekistan also competed in the competitions. — Anadolu Agency
As part of the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games held in Konya, javelin throwing competitions were held. Nargizakhon Kuchkarova from Uzbekistan also competed in the competitions. — Anadolu Agency (AA)
Wrestling competitions were held as part of the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games held in Konya. In the competitions, Hojakov Kerim (green jersey) for Turkmenistan competed with Askarov Adlan from Kazakhstan. — Anadolu Agency
Wrestling competitions were held as part of the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games held in Konya. In the competitions, Hojakov Kerim (green jersey) for Turkmenistan competed with Askarov Adlan from Kazakhstan. — Anadolu Agency (AA)
Within the scope of the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games held in Konya, athletics competitions were held. Turkish national athlete Ekatarina Guliyev also competed in the competitions. — Anadolu Agency
Within the scope of the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games held in Konya, athletics competitions were held. Turkish national athlete Ekatarina Guliyev also competed in the competitions. — Anadolu Agency (AA)
Artistic gymnastics competitions were also held as part of the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games held in Konya. Mahdi Ahmad Kohani from Iran also competed in the competitions. — Anadolu Agency
Artistic gymnastics competitions were also held as part of the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games held in Konya. Mahdi Ahmad Kohani from Iran also competed in the competitions. — Anadolu Agency (AA)

Meanwhile, Turkish Youth and Sports Minister Mehmet Kasapoglu, acknowledging the importance of the Games, spoke about how sport plays a role in uniting people. “International sports activities contribute to the development of brotherhood between countries,” he said.

Writing in Daily Sabah, Kasapoglu sums up the purpose of the Games, saying: “It is far from being just an organisation that gathers sports players together. If anything, the games are just an excuse to serve a greater purpose. The purpose is, as it is for everything we have done so far, unity among differences.”

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.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies