Today is the Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day (Atatürk’ü Anma, Gençlik ve spor Bayramı), a national holiday in Turkey, always celebrated on 19 May.

Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day 2020 joins a long list of activities affected by the coronavirus pandemic, leading to the cancellation of the usual events.

History of Youth and Sports Day

The founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, arrived in Samsun on May 19, 1919, to start a popular uprising against the decision of the World War I allies to divide many territories of the defeated Ottoman Empire.

Mustafa Kemal, with his accompanying 18 soldiers, arrived in Samsun on 19 May 1919.- Photograph courtesy of Sözcü

Turkey presently accepts the date of Atatürk’s arrival in Samsun as the starting date of the Turkish War of Independence. Following Atatürk’s wish, the Turkish government declared May 19 to be Youth and Sports Day and made it an official holiday in 1938. The day received its present name, the “Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day”, in 1981, which became the 100th anniversary of Atatürk’s birth.

How is Youth and Sports Day normally celebrated?

In the run-up to the May 19 celebrations, young Turkish athletes carry the national flag from Samsun, a Black Sea port from where Mustafa Kemal Atatürk started Turkey’s War of Independence in 1919, to Ankara, the country’s capital. The marathon usually takes about 10 days. The Turkish president accepts the flag at a ceremony on May 19.

A minutes silence is also observed in memory of Atatürk and wreaths and flowers are laid at monuments of Atatürk throughout country

Various sports events take place on May 19 throughout Turkey. Many people celebrate this day by watching athletes perform at their local stadiums or by participating in sports events that are open to the public, such as half-marathons.

Many Turks also observe May 19 as Atatürk’s birthday. Although the exact date of his birth is not known, Atatürk used to say he was born on May 19 (referring to his political career).

Many people hang Turkish flags outside their windows.

How will Youth and Sports Day be celebrated in the time of the coronavirus pandemic?

You’ll still see flags hanging from windows and balconies, however the COVID-19 pandemic has forced Turkey to cancel festivals and other crowded events. As a result, the government and the public have turned to other means to mark the day.

Among them is a virtual run, which replaces the original running events held every year across the country. Starting Monday night, national athletes, celebrities and running fans across the country joined a 19-hour, 19-minute “remembrance run” at home.

Ultra-marathon runner Aykut Çelikbaş initiated the run organized by the Turkish Athletics Federation and Ministry of Youth and Sports.

Athletes running at home, from Ramil Guliyev and Eda Tuğsuz to Yasmani Copello Escobar, joined runners from 12 countries and 64 cities jogging inside their homes.

Virtual or digital runs will continue throughout the week. Runners are required to apply online in categories of 1.9, 5, 10 and 19 kilometers or a 19-minute run or speed walk to record their activity.

A nationwide online chess tournament will also be held.

Join in the Turkish National Anthem, İstiklal Marşı

The Turkish National Anthem, İstiklal Marşı, will be broadcast tonight at 19.19 to commemorate Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day. Citizens are invited to sing along from windows and balconies.

Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day 2020

For those of you who don’t live near a tannoy system, you can join in with this version on YouTube.

Public life

The Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day is an official holiday in Turkey. All administration buildings, post offices, schools, and most businesses are closed on this day.

Sources: timeanddate.com/ office holidays.com/Daily Sabah