Istanbul faces global pressure on Olympic Games candidacy
ISTANBUL - Agence France-Presse
Istanbul’s candidacy for the 2020 Olympic Games faces is spluttering, as rivals’ statements add to pressure amid the recent series of doping scandals.
In an unexpected salvo, a Spanish member of the International Olympics Committee targeted the city for failing to show covered women in any of its presentations. Marisol Casado questioned why “there was never an image of a woman wearing a veil in [Istanbul’s] presentation videos.”
“Anyone who visits Istanbul will be aware that around 30 percent of women there tend to wear veils,” he added. “People who live in Arab nations are looking for something that will be more representative of their culture.”
Istanbul is one of the three candidates in the race to host the Olympic Games of 2020, facing competition from Tokyo and Madrid.
Candidate cities are banned from criticizing rivals during the election process; however, a similar remark was made by Tokyo Governor Noiki Onose in April that compared his city to Istanbul by saying that the Turkish city was underdeveloped and less equipped to host the games than Tokyo. Inose was also quoted as saying “the only thing [Muslim countries] share in common is Allah and they are fighting with each other, and they have classes.” The governor later apologized.
Vice president of the Japanese Olympic Committee Masato Mizuno, too, made statements on the candidacy of the Japanese city, and while not naming anyone, Mizuno’s “anti-doping” remark sounded like a swipe at the Turkish city.
“Japan will continue to be at the forefront of anti-doping activities going forward, and in 2020 we look forward to offering a model of clean sport as a legacy of excellence throughout the world,” Mizuno said. Japan’s record with doping is admirable, say sport insiders.
“It is true that Japan is one of the strongest countries” as far as drug testing is concerned, Canadian Dick Pound, an International Olympic Committee member who was the first president of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), told AFP in Lausanne.
“The country that does have a few problems is Spain,” he said, but added it would not be the decisive factor in the final decision on awarding the competition.
Growing public support for the project is also helping, making Tokyo the bookies’ favorite. According to the Japan Anti-Doping Agency (JADA), only 40 cases of athletes doping have been discovered in Japan since 2007. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency website, meanwhile, shows there were 37 doping violations in the U.S. in 2012 alone.
It is seen as ready to trounce Madrid, where the expense of hosting one of the biggest sporting jamborees on the planet is worrying citizens already groaning under the weight of austerity measures.
Commentators say Istanbul had been doing well, pushing its status as a bridge between Europe and Asia, but recent disturbances in which riot police fired tear gas against demonstrators will have given some IOC members pause for thought.
Ongoing doping scandals revolving around Turkish athletes have also turned the country’s image upside down in sports, with even a former Olympic champion testing positive for doping use.
Turkish officials, however, have previously dismissed the effect of doping rumors on the country’s bid.
“The increase in the number of doping cases [...] shows that Turkey is fighting doping, and in my opinion, will affect the Olympic bid positively, not negatively,” the head of the country’s national Olympic committee, Uğur Erdener said.
Last month, eight Turkish track and field athletes, including 2004 Olympic hammer silver medalist Esref Apak, and eight Turkish weightlifters were caught for doping.
In May, Olympic 1,500-meter champion Asli Cakir Alptekin and two-time European 100-meter hurdles champion Nevin Yanit were charged with doping violations.“If as a country, you are taking the necessary measures against doping and these are known internationally, then [the bid] can’t be affected,” Erdener said. “My personal opinion is that these incidents won’t affect us because every positive test is an indication of the fight against doping.”