But it is not just the number of countries that makes this a worldwide event. Television coverage means that fans from Canada to China can tune in to their favorite events. I don’t know quite how they calculate the statistics, but the media is reporting that two billion people tuned in to watch Usain Bolt win the 100m final.
For a brief 10 seconds, one-third of the world’s population stopped to watch a Jamaican! Sadly, none of those were in the US, as NBC decided not to screen the race live but to hold it in the can until primetime, an unbelievable decision as part of the excitement of the sprint is holding your breath until you learn who crosses the line first.
It seems a shame that we can only unite once every four years; for this reason the Olympic movement exists to foster co-operation between the people of the world as ordinary people unite through sport. This aim is derived from the legendary Olympic Truce, which was a treaty signed between three kings at the original Olympics. The truce prohibited combat between the Greek city states, allowing athletes and others to travel safely to and from Olympia for the Games.
Today, the Olympic flame is carried by runners between Olympia in Greece and the Olympic Stadium. En route it symbolizes the Olympic spirit. Passing the torch from relay runner to relay runner illustrates the fact that people are dependent on one another, and emphasizes the message of peace and friendship.
The Olympic Charter, established by the French Baron de Coubertin, who founded the International Olympic Committee, states that “The practice of sport is a human right.” Everyone should be able to play sport “without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”
De Coubertin believed that sport could help build a peaceful and better world. Normally when continents meet, the friction between their movements causes earthquakes. His reasoning for reviving the Olympics was the hope that if the continents met in sporting competition, and that people came together both on the track and in the spectator stands, a spirit of peace and understanding could ensue.
Of course this ideal has not always rung true. Politics may be officially banned from the Olympics, but the US and Russia used the games as a proxy for Cold War hostilities, with the battle for supremacy in the Olympic medal table being as serious a national business as the arms race and the space race. Hitler tried to turn the 1936 Berlin Olympics into a showcase for National Socialism, and was thwarted by the runaway success of the black runner Jesse Owens. The 1980 Olympics was boycotted by some nations after Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan. The 1972 Games saw the shocking events of the murder of Israeli athletes in Munich.
But it is not just in the big stadium, the aquacentre and velodrome that the Olympic spirit is in evidence. Olympic yachtsmen are competing on the waters off the coast of Weymouth, and the rowers are in action on the River Thames at historic Eton Dorney.
If İstanbul can be successful in its bid to host the Olympic Games, then we will witness the exciting prospect of these events being held on the Bosphorus -- the mighty channel of water that separates Europe and Asia.
Building on the success of their previous excellent collaboration, “İstanbul -- the Ultimate Guide,” Turkish tour guide Saffet Emre Tonguç and British travel writer Pat Yale have produced an exquisitely detailed guide to this major international waterway.
“Bosphorus -- the Ultimate Guide” is, like its predecessor, packed full of fascinating facts and the most interesting and striking images. The pair write: “Stretching almost 30 kilometers from Sarayburnu in the heart of Old İstanbul right up to Anadolu Feneri at the mouth of the Black Sea, the Bosphorus is the magnificent stretch of water that separates the European and Asian shores of the city. Even now, when many of the wooden yalıs (seaside mansions) that used to line the shores have been lost, the beauty of the Bosphorus is still absolutely magnetic, and few things can be more enjoyable than taking a cruise along it, looking out for historical palaces and ancient castles, watching for birds and the occasional pod of dolphins, and floating beneath the twin modern bridges without which İstanbul’s traffic would grind to a complete halt.”
Or how about this poetic understanding of the city: “It’s the moods of the Bosphorus that define the city day by day as the color of the sky is reflected in the water and then bounced back up to the sky again.”
You can tell, just from this excerpt, that Tonguç and Yale love their subject. This book is extremely accessible due to its visual appeal, but it is at the same time a fully comprehensive study of the Bosphorus and its shores. Yes, both of them; the Anatolian side gets as much attention and coverage as the European one!
The secret to this duo’s success is that, just like the Bosphorus, they represent both Europe and Anatolia. Tonguç and Yale each bring something different to the party: local knowledge, a deep understanding of Turkish history and sociology, an inquisitive mind exploring backstreets leaving no stone unturned and an ability to understand what the visitor will find fascinating.
Fans of their previous work will not be disappointed. The same elements of stunning photography, detailed information, expert selection of items to feature and quirky facts are here. Not just for tourists, long-term residents of the city will find fascinating information to delight them. Next time I hear the quiz question, “When was the first bridge over the Bosphorus built?” I will know not to answer 1973 when the first suspension bridge was opened. I’ve learned from Yale and Tonguç that the correct answer is in fact 513BC! The Persian king, Darius the Great, built a pontoon bridge from 325 boats that spanned between Anadolu Hisari and Rumeli Hisari so his army of 700,000 men could cross.
Tonguç is an expert on the mansion houses that line the water, often only visible in all their glory from a boat as high walls surround their landward sides. A special delight of this guide is the photographs from the interior of some of these.
The one downside to the guide is the plain and boring cover, which doesn’t live up to the attractive layout of the guide itself.
Bosphorus: The Ultimate Guide, by Saffet Emre Tonguç and Pat Yale
Published by Boyut, 2012, TL 22,90 in paperback, ISBN: 978-975231024-7