By Huseyin Burak Demirer and Hikmet Faruk Başer
ISTANBUL (AA) - Nationwide celebrations took place on Thursday to mark May 19 Commemoration of Ataturk, Youth and Sports Day, which also marks the beginning of Turkey’s War of Independence.
May 19, 1919 was the day Mustafa Kemal, later to become Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, arrived in the Black Sea city of Samsun from Istanbul to organize the war that saw the remnants of the Ottoman Empire transformed into modern Turkey four years later.
Today the day is marked around Turkey as Commemoration of Ataturk, Youth and Sports Day, a national holiday that sees young people stage sporting and cultural activities.
Sports Minister Akif Cagatay Kilic laid a wreath at Anitkabir, Ataturk’s mausoleum overlooking the capital Ankara.
In a memorial message, Kilic wrote: "We are in the presence of Great Mustafa Kemal Ataturk on the 97th anniversary of May 19 Commemoration of Ataturk, Youth and Sports Day. The independence struggle which started on this day in Samsun has proved that our land cannot be invaded."
The Istanbul province’s Sports Department also celebrated the day in the city's iconic Taksim Square.
A group from the department observed a minute of silence and sang the national anthem as well as performing Turkish folk dances.
*Anadolu Agency correspondent Burcu Arik contributed to this story from Istanbul.