Turkey’s Olympic test: Rejoicing at a loss!

Turkey’s Olympic test: Rejoicing at a loss!

It took some time to get used to it. Every time the Finnish men’s basketball team scored against Turkey last week, my colleague screamed for joy. Listening to him made sense. The Turkish national team has been for years in the hands of an anachronistic coaching staff and the victories so far were more a result of accidental miracles than well-deserved work.

My colleague thought that losing this time would open the door to victories in the future, since the current failure could lead to a change in the administration of the team.

I have to confess; it proved difficult for me not to jump in the air every time the Turkish team scored. Yet, they lost and in fact left the EuroBasket 2013 in disgrace, losing game after game. My conscience is clear: Sometimes you need to see the bottom to bounce back to the top.

You can rejoice in a defeat or at least not be too saddened by it. It is quite similar to Istanbul’s loss in its Olympic bid.

We have on one side a group that is extremely saddened and also angry at having lost the 2020 Olympic Games to Tokyo. They are, of course, the government and its supporters. I think this group also includes those who are not necessarily fond of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), but who would have like to have seen Olympic Games take place in Istanbul, without caring whether this would be interpreted as a victory for the ruling party. 

On the other side, we have those who have rejoiced or were not saddened by the fact that Istanbul missed the opportunity again. They are comprised of two groups. The first are the opponents of the AKP, whom you can divide into two categories. The first category is made up of the staunchest of the staunch. They have never liked the AKP and they have been praying for its failure from the day it came to power. One could feel a sense of celebration when they heard “Tokyo.”

The second category is made up of the newcomers; those who have recently joined the anti-AKP camp. Having applauded the AKP’s successes without any prejudice in the past, they have recently grown more and more anxious at the government and especially Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s authoritarian tendencies, which is reinforced by a mixture of an arrogance over past successes and acrimony at present failures. Bringing the Olympics to Istanbul would have boosted the recently tarnished self-confidence of the AKP, which could have made Erdoğan more arrogant and authoritarian. That’s why those in this category rejoiced at the loss.

Then there is another group that is made of those that did not rejoice at it, but were not saddened by what they see as a “postponement.” They believe that Turkey’s hosting of the Olympic Games has just been delayed, as Istanbul deserves to host the Olympics and it will definitely happen one day. But not this time, and thank God not with this mentality. I belong to this category and let me explain this line of thinking.

Unfortunately, the AKP government did not have the proper understanding of the Olympic spirit. In the eyes of the AKP, it was enough to construct the necessary sporting facilities and have a perfect organization by simply applying emergency rule during the month of the Olympics, which would handle the traffic problem by emptying the city. Indeed, many sporting facilities were constructed during AKP rule, but these were intended to create more billionaires in the AKP, rather than gold medalists. The prime minister kept pressuring the private sector to make a Turkish car or a Turkish plane; he never pressured them to sponsor a Turkish champion for Wimbledon or the Tour de France. 

The Olympic Games was going to provide the perfect alibi to turn Istanbul into a bigger construction site. Not only was the city saved, but so were the archaeological riches that would have become unearthed. “I could imagine Erdoğan saying ‘Do you want us to postpone the Olympic Games just for a bunch of archaeological stuff!’”

A last word on Prime Minister Erdoğan. He is clearly resentful about Europe’s voting pattern. “After Madrid was eliminated, we expected Europe to vote for us, but it did not happen,” he said, seeming to have forgotten that he has been bashing Europe nearly every day. I am sure he does not want to even think about why Turkey did not garner the votes of the Arab countries. We do not have the Olympics (for now). But it’s OK. We still have “precious loneliness.”