A warm and wonderful welcome
© AFP

The 19th FIFA U-20 World Cup got under way with a spectacular opening ceremony at the Kadir Has Stadium in Kayseri, with FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter in attendance.

Moments after the final whistle in the opening match between Cuba and Korea Republic, which was preceded by Blatter performing the ceremonial kick-off, the stadium’s big screens provided the countdown to the start of the show.

On the pitch, meanwhile, the final preparations were made as the playing surface was covered to form a giant carpet and a huge caravansary (a building typical of the region and used to shelter caravans and travellers) was erected.

When the countdown reached zero, the ceremony kicked off to the sound of the tournament’s official song, Yıldızlar Buradan Yükseliyor, which means “Building Bridges for the Rising Stars”, by Turkish group Gece. As that rang around the stadium, carpets were rolled out to form the word “Welcome” in several different languages.

The music then gave way to the flags of the 24 nations taking part in the tournament. Emerging from the caravansary, they formed a colourful border for an elaborate choreographed routine in which small carpets were used to create eye-catching mosaics in the shape of a diamond and traditional symbols from local culture, such as the Turkish eye and a ram’s horn.

Anoter highlight of the ceremony then followed as dozens of dancers took up position in the centre of the pitch to perform a spectacular traditional dance from the Kayseri region.

The show reached its conclusion as the little carpets were rearranged to form a giant mosaic depicting the Turkey 2013 logo, culminating the warmest of welcomes to the teams that will now fight it out for the most prestigious youth title in world football.