Turkish PM, Istanbul team vow to 'mobilize all means' for 2020 Olympics ahead of vote
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan speaks to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) during the presentation of Istanbul as candidate to host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, in Buenos Aires Sept. 7. AP photo
Istanbul's Olympic bid team has made its final presentation before tonight's vote by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Buenos Aires, which will decide the host of the 2020 Olympic Games.
The delegation representing Istanbul, led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, hope it will be "fifth time lucky" for Turkey's largest metropolis, and vowed that the country was united to "mobilize all means" to prepare the Summer Games.
Responding to strong criticism regarding the doping scandals involving Turkish athletes, bid representatives guaranteed that "zero tolerance" would be shown in such cases.
Erdoğan emphasized awarding Istanbul with the Olympics would send a powerful message of peace.
"We have the means, the desire and the motivation to organize the Olympic Games. [Granting the Olympics to Istanbul], in a region that longs for peace, will be the most meaningful and effective message to the world," Erdoğan said during his brief presentation.
The result of the vote is expected to be announced at 5:30 p.m local time (11:30 p.m. in Turkey).
Bid leader Hasan Arat had expressed confidence ahead of the vote arguing that Istanbul had enough qualities to beat the odds and overcome fellow challengers Tokyo and Madrid.
Giant screens have been installed at Istanbul's Sultanahmet Square, next to the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, as well as in Bebek on the shores of the Bosphorus and Taksim Square to air the voting session live.
The Istanbul delegation has been emphasizing Turkey's young population and the overall cost, which is said to be less than Madrid and Tokyo.
However, they are facing tough questions due to recent doping scandals involving prominent Turkish athletes. The bid is also threatened by the brutal police crackdown on the nationwide Gezi Park protests, which were mostly led by the youth that the Istanbul team has been promoting in Buenos Aires.
'Zero tolerance' against doping
Youth and Sports Minister Suat Kılıç insisted that Turkey would step up its fight against doping. "Our policy is clear. We have zore tolerance against doping. We will increase our investments. We will also enact the necessary laws banning the import and sale of those substances," Kılıç said.
For his part, Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan argued that Turkey had the economic means to host the Olympics. "The 2020 Games can help transform a nation and a city. The Olympics are successful when the goals of the host nation overlap with those of the IOC. Now is the time to say 'yes' to Istanbul," Babacan said.
The Turkish delegates also emphasized Istanbul's symbolism as a city "linking continents," and one representing a country with a Muslim majority.
"Organizing the Olympics in Turkey, a country of youth, in an ancient city with 8,000 years of history, will also be appropriate for the Olympic spirit," Erdoğan said in his speech.
The Turkish prime minister, who played football during his youth, argued that sports had played an important part in his personal development.
"I hope my wife and children understand when I say that I love Istanbul and sport as much as I love them," he said.
"My love of Istanbul made me mayor of the city [in the 1994 local elections], my love of sport through teamwork and solidarity made me prime minister of our nation and it has always been my goal to bring my love for sport and Istanbul together under one umbrella, the Olympic Games," the prime minister added.
Erdoğan flew 16 hours to get to Buenos Aires so he could personally address the IOC after spending the past few days at the G-20 Summit in Russia, discussing the Syrian crisis with other world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama.
"Come, let us build bridges together. Come, let us make history together," Erdoğan said at the end of his presentation, referencing the official slogans of Istanbul's bid.
A villa for each gold-medalist
Meanwhile, Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş has said on Sept. 6 that if the Olympic Games are hosted in Istanbul, villas and houses built at the Olympic village will be given as a present to each of the Games' gold-medalists.
Topbaş also vowed to solve most of Istanbul's infrastructure and public transport problems before 2020.
The other two bidders challenging Istanbul are also confronted with significant difficulties. The Madrid bid team has been trying to assure the IOC delegates that the city will be able to host the Games despite the deep economic crisis in Spain. Tokyo has faced tough questions regarding the aftermath of the nuclear catastrophe at the Fukushima plant following the 2011 earthquake in Japan.