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Erdogan in crackdown on ‘un-Turkish’ arenas

"There is no such word in our language," says the Turkish president, as he decrees every arena will soon be called a stadium

By Jon Chapple on 30 May 2017

Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Erdogan pictured in 2014


Türk Telekom Arena – the home ground of football team Galatasaray SK and an occasional 70,000-cap. concert venue – has become the first Turkish stadium to change its name following criticism of the word ‘arena’ by president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan, an Islamist autocrat who earlier this year won a referendum granting him sweeping new powers, is a vocal supporter of removing ‘foreign’ loanwords from the Turkish language. He announced last week he had instructed sports minister Akif Cagatay Kilic to order Turkey’s open-air stadia, many of which are called arenas, to change their names.

“I am against arenas,” he said on Friday. “You know what they do in arenas, don’t you? People were dismembered [in Roman arenas]. I have given the instruction to the minister and we will remove the name arena from stadia. There is no such thing in our language.”

Both ‘arena’ and ‘stadium’ have classical origins: the former from Latin arēna and the latter from Ancient Greek στάδιον (stádion).

“We will remove the name arena from stadia. There is no such thing in our language”

Other Turkish stadia with the word ‘arena’ in their names include Vodafone Arena (41,903-cap.) in Istanbul, Timsah Arena (43,331-cap.) in Bursa and Gaziantep Arena (33,502-cap.) in Gaziantep, while indoor arenas include Ülker Sports Arena (15,000-cap.) and Volkswagen Arena (5,800-cap.), both in Istanbul, and Hayri Gür Arena (7,500-cap.) in Pelitli.

According to the pro-government Daily Sabah, the Turkish Language Institute (TDK) approves of Erdogan’s anti-arena intervention. Describing words such as “arena, tower and mall” as the height of linguistic corruption, TDK head Mustafa Kacalin calls the campaign for language purity a “life and death struggle. Just the way our parliament was bombed on 15 July, our language faces bombing each and every day,” he says.

According to Freemuse, Erodgan’s Turkey was the second biggest violator of artistic freedom in 2016.

 


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