31 AUG 2003 General News Paris, France

Turkish Prime Minister flies to Paris to see Süreyya Ayhan

Süreyya Ayhan wins in ISTAF Berlin (Getty Images)Süreyya Ayhan wins in ISTAF Berlin (Getty Images) © Copyright

It was just 50 minutes before the scheduled start of the women’s 1500m final in the Stade de France when the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan flew into Paris. He was then driven to the stadium and watched Süreyya Ayhan’s race, in which she finished second.

The runner is Turkey’s number one sports person since she won the 1500 metres at the European Championships last year in Munich. And as Turkey had never won any medal at the world athletics championships nor in the Olympic athletics finals Erdogan decided on short notice that it was well worth to go. He himself was said to have played football, so he has an interest in sport. 

Originally, he was scheduled for a flight from Istanbul to Berlin for a political meeting. But he squeezed in the trip to Paris. Right after a short press conference with Süreyya Ayhan at the stadium he left for Berlin.

“I thought she would win before I came – but in my heart and in the hearts of the Turkish people she is the World champion. She deserves this standing, as she gave everything for her country. She simply was unlucky today. But I believe she can win at the Olympic Games in Athens next year”, the Prime Minister said. After this statement Mr. Erdogan officially congratulated Süreyya Ayhan for a photo shooting.

Ayhan’s race and the medal prospect was a major event in the whole of Turkey. It is said that in various cities large TV screens were put up to allow people to watch the final. Of course there was the hope for Süreyya Ayhan to win the gold medal. But as it turned out to be the first athletics medal for the country people had no reason to be disappointed. In the cities and villages a huge number of children are reported to have taken up the sport since Ayhan won at the European Championships. They are running through and want to become the next Süreyya Ayhan in future.