Istanbul hopes to land Olympic Games on fifth attempt
BUENOS AIRES / ST. PETERSBURG
DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜRELIstanbul hopes to beat the odds land the 2020 Olympic Games at the expense of Tokyo and Madrid, with the host city set to be voted for on Sept. 7.
Turkey has made four failed attempts before, but it is the first time that it has made it to this far. The Istanbul delegation is led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was flying to Buenos Aires from the G-20 summit in Russia.
“We are going there with the hopes of the work we have made all along,” Erdoğan told reporters in St. Petersburg on Sept. 6. “We hope to return with good news.”
The prime minister will join a big 600-strong delegation in the Argentinean capital city and reports say he will make a “surprise” on the last day to wow the voters. However, the content of his surprise is not yet known.
Along with Tokyo, Istanbul has been trying to allay fears. For Japan, it was the leaks at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant. For Turkey, it is the concern that the Syria conflict might hurt Istanbul’s bid.
Istanbul bid chief Hasan Arat said he wasn’t concerned and decisions about what happened in Syria lay in the hands of people like his Prime Minister Erdoğan.
“I think that this is a matter for the political leaders to discuss and make decisions at the G20 summit in St Petersburg, Russia,” said Arat, who unveiled 25 young Istanbul-based students as a symbol of the country’s future. “I think they will find a solution on that topic. There is seven years to go to the 2020 Olympic Games and this is such a big opportunity for the region, for the Olympic Movement and for the youth of the region. I am very optimistic.”
For Tokyo, the latest story was that radioactive water had leaked from a storage tank and may have seeped into groundwater flowing towards the Pacific Ocean.
However, several high profile Japanese athletes including the bid’s Director of Sport Yuko Arakida said that by hosting the Games they would bring some solace to the young people affected by the tsunami and earthquake. “Needless to say we want this problem to be solved as quickly as possible,” she said. “We convey our thoughts to the people of Fukushima but we hope that by hosting the Games it will bring inspiration and solace to the children of the area.”
Worries that the Syrian conflict could erode support for Istanbul appeared wide of the mark, as four IOC members stated that it would make no difference.
“Current events do play a role but the world is an ever changing place and who knows what it will be like in seven years time. It is a vote for the future not just about the present,” IOC vice-president Ng Ser Miang told AFP.
Madrid by contrast was in relaxed mode and fielded basketball superstar Pau Gasol, who despite being born in Barcelona has thrown his weight behind the Spanish capital city’s third successive bid.
All three will learn their fate on Sept. 7.
Madrid, after finishing third and second for the 2012 and 2016 Games respectively, will be hoping it is a case of third time lucky. Tokyo is hoping to gets to host the games for the second time - having held them in 1964.
If Istanbul wins, Turkey will become the first country with a Muslim majority to host the Games. Its fate lies in the hands of the unpredictable electorate of the members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), 98 of whom are eligible to vote in the first round. Members from the cities’ countries cannot.
Gasol, Olympic silver medalist in 2008 and 2012 and the country’s flagbearer at the latter opening ceremony, reflected Madrid’s refusal to ever concede defeat.
They have battled on when some posed questions over their ability to host the Games in the light of the dire state of the economy, which has shown signs of slight improvements in some recent data.
“The whole of Spain is excited,” said the Los Angeles Lakers star.
“We are showing everyone that we have a dream and that we don’t throw the towel in or give up, which is very important. Our bid is very strong and it is risk free.”
Putin, not Obama, an example of how to woo IOC
BUENOS AIRES - Agence France-PressThe leaders of Japan, Spain and Turkey have left the G-20 Summit in Russia to back their cities’ bids for the 2020 Summer Olympics, ahead of the final decision.
They would do well to heed the lessons of two fellow leaders.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his American counterpart Barack Obama had contrasting experiences in their campaigns.
Putin’s campaign to win the 2014 Winter Games for Sochi was a spectacular success. Obama’s efforts to bring the 2016 Summer Games to Chicago, anything but.
“Putin being here was very important,” Jean-Claude Killy, a French IOC member and one of the main organizers behind the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville, said after the vote. “He was charm personified. He spoke two languages he never speaks usually, French and English. The Putin charisma turned four votes for Pyeongchang into four for Sochi.”
Obama was thought to be the final ace in the pack of his home city of Chicago as he flew in on the voting day in Copenhagen in 2009. However, while he received a respectful welcome, his charisma failed to win over the members and less than a year after his becoming the first black president he suffered his first defeat.
For Putin and Obama read then British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac for the battle to win the hosting of the 2012 Olympics.
As the French began to idle in front sensing victory was theirs the never say die attitude of the London campaign plugged away.
Thus on Sept. 7 when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks on behalf of Tokyo, his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayip Erdoğan for Istanbul and Spanish premier Mariano Rajoy for Madrid they will do well to recall the pitfalls that can await when they go before the IOC electorate.