Istanbul loses out to Tokyo in bid to host 2020 Olympics
Istanbul residents follow the voting in one of the nine spots in the city where giant screens have been erected for the occasion. AA photoTurkish politicians and Istanbul’s 2020 Olympic bid team were left dejected after the city lost the chance to host the Summer Games in seven years’ time to an ecstatic Tokyo.
Members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) meeting in Buenos Aires chose the Japanese capital, which previously hosted the Games in 1964, over Istanbul, after Madrid was dramatically eliminated following a first-round tie with the Turkish city.
The decision left the 600-member Turkish delegation, led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, disappointed.
“We should respect the decision,” Erdoğan told reporters after the result was announced. “I am disappointed that a country, which had hosted the Olympics before, has been elected. We hoped for something different.”
Erdoğan said Istanbul’s project was good enough to be awarded the Games.
“Turkey is a country that has successfully hosted a number of major sporting events. The committee made such a decision probably because they thought that we were not yet ready,” he said.
“From now on, we will try to get better results in the Olympics,” the prime minister added.
Statements from several IOC members, however, indicated that the bloody Syrian civil war cost Istanbul votes against Tokyo.
Members Istanbul's delegation, including
Prime Minister Erdoğan, sit after Tokyo
was awarded the 2020 Olympics. AP photo
IOC delegates eliminated Madrid after the first round of voting.Both Madrid and Istanbul were tied with 26 votes each after a first ballot – meaning Tokyo comfortably topped that round with 42 votes – and it had to be put to a second decisive vote to see who would be eliminated. Istanbul then garnered 49 of the 94 votes cast to progress and kept their hopes alive of bringing the Games to Turkey for the first time. Tokyo previously hosted the 1964 Summer Games.
Long-time IOC member Prince Albert of Monaco said the unstable situation in the region harmed Istanbul’s cause.
“The geopolitical situation certainly played a role,” he told Agence France-Presse. “IOC members prefer surefire bets. ... Istanbul, like the others, was a really good candidacy. However, Tokyo offered a safe pair of hands. There is no problem with financing the Games, neither for the construction nor the organization.”
IOC Vice-President Thomas Bach, favored to succeed Jacques Rogge when he steps down as IOC president tomorrow, agreed that the instability hurt Istanbul’s chances.
“There you have one candidature addressing more the sense of tradition and stability and another candidature addresses the longing for new shores,” said the 59-year-old German lawyer.
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu also touched on the issue in a speech yesterday.
“We were waiting with a great excitement and hope that Istanbul would host the Olympic Games, but unfortunately it did not happen,” Kılıçdaroğlu said. “I hope the Olympic Games will come to Turkey, to Istanbul in the future. Olympic Games mean peace, friendship, fraternity, a uniting of cultures and fair play. There are no Olympics in a place where there is war.”
Gracious in defeat
Turkey’s bid leader, Hasan Arat, was gracious in defeat. The businessman and a former basketballer said he and his team were extremely disappointed but it had been a “fantastic learning experience” and he took great pleasure out of another consequence of the campaign.
“We may not have won the Games, but we united the nation. And for that, we can always be proud,” he said.
In Tokyo, it was pure ecstasy. Thousands of Japanese who gathered in Tokyo in the early hours of yesterday erupted in joy, making V for victory signs and shouting “banzai!” (hurrah!) and “Tokyo!” as the result was beamed live from Buenos Aires.
“I have been waiting a long time for this feeling,” bid chief Tsunekazu Takeda said. “The members of the IOC have seen that Tokyo is a safe pair of hands.”
“We have now been given a dream, a hope, and a future,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told Japanese television. “Japan has had 15 years of economic stagnation ... and we’ve lost confidence in ourselves. But I hope this will be a chance for us to regain our confidence.”
The vote for Tokyo – which came third in the race for the 2016 Games won by Rio – means it will be the fourth time Japan plays host to the Olympics, having also organized winter Games in Nagano (1998) and Sapporo (1972).