Istanbul impressed IOC members, bid chief says

Istanbul impressed IOC members, bid chief says

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Istanbul impressed IOC members, bid chief says

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Istanbul bid leader Hasan Arat said that the city had given a good impression to the visiting International Olympic Committee (IOC) members, but acknowledged that the race to host the 2020 Olympic Games was far from over.

Arat told CNN Türk that Istanbul impressed the IOC Evaluation Commission during their four-day visit to the candidate city. “Technically and politically, Istanbul came through the visit very positively,” he said as the visit wrapped up yesterday. “But we need to continue lobbying with businessmen and intellectuals. There are still four months and we need to work carefully.”

After four failed bids, Istanbul has made it to the final for the first time. The city is racing against Tokyo and Madrid. The IOC will vote for the 2020 host city in Buenos Aires in September.

Arat highlighted that Istanbul was an “attractive” choice as a first-time host, since Tokyo hosted the 1964 Games and Spain hosted the Olympics in Barcelona in 1992.

“Turkey has so much to offer the world,” Arat said, adding that awarding the Olympic Games to a Turkish city would send an important message to the region regarding the country’s secular democracy and stable economy.

Istanbul’s Olympic investment budget is $19.3 billion, about 10 times that of Madrid and also larger than Tokyo’s ($4.9 billion).

Earlier this week, Turkey’s leading businessman pledged their support for the Olympic Games, and Arat said the private sector’s commitment was impressive.

“Many of the IOC members were visiting Turkey for the first time in many years,” Arat said. “They were surprised by the private sector’s power and support for the Games.”

Human factor

The IOC’s Evaluation Commission visited sports facilities but Arat stressed that the human dimension was a highlight.

“The human factor is important,” Arat said. “The IOC members saw young volunteers wherever they went, and they saw their feelings. IOC members have clearly seen the desire here. They met Olympic and Paralympic athletes. They met the chairmen of our three renowned clubs, Galatasaray, Beşiktaş and Fenerbahçe.”

Arat added that the presentations given by the finance, tourism and transportation ministers were also impressive.

He said the four days had made him very proud, but added that the race was far from over.

“Let’s not forget that the process is not over. Istanbul will not fall behind, but all three cities will enter the final lap neck and neck,” he said.

“We should bear in mind that just like a basketball match, it will not be over until the last second,” said Arat, a former national basketball player. “We should remain prudent and we should work hard up until the last minute. “There is one gold medal at the end,” Arat concluded. “There is no silver medal for the runner-up.”