The International Olympic Committee's (IOC) announcement late on Wednesday night shortlisting İstanbul along with Tokyo and Madrid to compete for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games was met with much enthusiasm in Turkey. “We have received good news: İstanbul has been declared a candidate city,” Youth and Sports Minister Suat Kılıç announced on Thursday morning at a press conference in Ankara, describing the IOC's decision as historic.
Turkey had also applied for the 2020 European Football Championship, and the IOC has made it clear that Turkey cannot hold both events. “If it were possible, we would be pleased to organize both events,” the minister said, noting that Turkey is economically strong enough to handle both events. However, there is a tendency in international committees to give sports events to different countries. “But it's not possible to organize both events because a time period of at least six months is required between events,” the minister commented, adding that officials are in fact discussing extending the time period to one year.
The final decision for the Olympics is to be given in September of next year, while the decision for the European Championship is expected to be made at the beginning of 2014. Thus, Turkey will keep its candidacy for both and make a decision as circumstances require in the future.
Kılıç believes that Turkey fully deserves to be named the host city for the Games. “İstanbul offers the Olympic Games what no other city can,” he explains. “The Games would be held on two continents.”
Should İstanbul be declared the winner, Turkey will organize the Games together with the Paralympic Games in Asia and Europe. Noting that Turkey traces its history from several ancient civilizations, Kılıç emphasized, “Should İstanbul be the winner, for the first time the Olympics will be held by a country in the Turkic and Islamic world.”
Asked about the losing cities, Baku and Doha, Kılıç replied, “We have never been engaged in any activity against other competing cities,” adding, “What is important for us is where İstanbul is, and it is placed at the top of the list as the strongest candidate.”
The minister also maintained that the Olympic Games would cost İstanbul much less than it would for other countries, given that major transportation projects are already under way. “İstanbul won’t have to spend unbelievable figures,” he said.
Uğur Erdener, president of the National Olympic Committee of Turkey, spoke to Anatolia news agency in Quebec after the IOC announced its decision on Wednesday night. “This is a result we expected,” he said. “İstanbul has the highest chance of holding the 2020 Olympic Games.”
Neslihan Darnel, one of Turkey’s delegates for the 2020 Games and a national volleyball player, said it was a great honor to represent Turkey at Quebec, noting she was also there to represent Turkey’s young sportspeople and Turkish women. “We need to work more from now on,” she commented.
Hasan Arat, vice president of the committee, emphasized that should İstanbul be declared the winner, it will be the first time the Olympic Games would be held in a Muslim country.
For Arat, İstanbul’s success was also an indication of being a brand city. “İstanbul will win the race,” he said, adding that the support offered by Hidayet Türkoğlu, Turkey’s other delegate for the 2020 Games and a national basketball player who currently plays for the Orlando Magic, and Darnel has proved a tremendous help in getting the result.
Türkoğlu was also very excited about the news. “I can’t express the happiness I feel in words,” he told Anatolia in Quebec.
After the elimination of Doha and Baku, İstanbul will compete with Tokyo and Madrid to be named host city for the 2020 Olympics at the IOC meeting to be held on September 7, 2013, in Buenos Aires. The executive board of the IOC, chaired by Jacques Rogge, voted on each candidate city after going through a technical assessment report. According to The Associated Press, an official familiar with details of the selection said -- speaking on condition of anonymity because the totals are not being made public -- that the board voted unanimously in favor of Tokyo and Madrid at 12-0 and supported İstanbul by 11-1. The vote was 0-12 for Baku and 3-9 for Doha.
This is the fifth time İstanbul has been a candidate for the Olympic Games, whereas for Madrid it’s the third consecutive time, and for Tokyo the second time in a row. Tokyo, which has already hosted the Olympics, in 1964, is said to have received the highest praise in the IOC report, while İstanbul is claimed to offer good potential.
Considering that Turkey is also engaged for the European Football Championship in 2020, the IOC clearly stated that Turkey can’t host both events. “The working group feels that for a city to organize two major sports events in the same year, and within a period of three months, presents significant risks,” the report said.