Never mind – There are better games to host!
“Inspire a generation” was London’s motto at last year’s Olympic Games. “To raise devout generations” is Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s declared political motto. And he does not understand why Turkey’s fifth bid to host the Games has failed.
It’s unfair, Mr. Erdoğan complained. He says that Istanbul’s failed bid is tantamount to the (West’s) “cutting off ties with the Islamic world.” He won’t understand.
Ironically, Istanbul 2020 failed only two days before Turkey’s latest wave of restrictions on alcohol sale and consumption took effect. More ironically, as Hürriyet columnist Ahmet Hakan wrote, “the heart of Istanbul looked like emergency rule with [scores of] policemen cordoning off [Taksim] square” by the hour the world chose the 2020 venue for the games.”
Too bad, Istanbul 2020 could have been a reincarnation of Berlin 1936 – a showcase for muscle-flexing by an emerging superpower. But worse, the prime minister, once again, has a “religious” conspiracy theory to explain the failure. He won’t understand how the men who govern Turkey looked when they blamed the “Jewish diaspora, Germany, Lufthansa, BBC, The Economist, Reuters, CNN International, foreign enemies who envy Turkey and intergalactic forces” for the Gezi Park riots this summer.
He won’t understand how Olympic candidate Turkey looked when its national carrier banned its cabin crew from putting on red lipsticks or nail polish, and justified this by a funnier “red lipstick could impair passengers’ visual integrity;” and how when the airliner stopped serving alcohol on an increasing number of routes.
How should the voters in the Olympic competition have felt when they heard that after dozens of Turkish athletes were found to have used doping in international competitions, Uğur Erdener, head of the Turkish National Olympic Committee, said the spate of doping cases in Turkey should help, rather than harm, Istanbul’s bid for the 2020 Olympics?
How should they have felt when they heard that Mr. Erdoğan’s government would now allow only government-friendly slogans at football stadiums, and any anti-government slogan would be punished? Do Mr. Erdoğan’s smart Cabinet ministers seriously think no one – but no one – knew when a Turkish athlete who had tweeted explicitly racist slogans was honored by carrying the Turkish flag at the opening ceremony for the 2013 Mediterranean Games?
Mr. Erdoğan and his men have the strange habit of underestimating the memorable marks they leave behind. They may have forgotten it already, but how their “let’s raise devout generations” ideology showed itself up at the London Olympic Games last year will remain unforgettable.
As I mentioned in this column a year ago, the Turkish presenter merely went and omitted part of John Lennon’s lyrics that called for “no religion” during the broadcasting of the 30th Olympic Games’ closing ceremonies. The iconic song “Imagine” was included in the ceremonies and was translated into Turkish by the TRT presenter as it played in the background. The lyrics of the song, which called for people to imagine a world with no countries and no reason to kill or die for, were correctly translated by the presenter, but the TRT man preferred just to skip the part where Lennon sang for “no religion.” If Istanbul had won, TRT could have simply reproduced “Imagine” with a line that calls everyone to join Islam – Mr. Lennon singing, of course, thanks to digital remastering.
Mr. Erdoğan also has the habit of rebuffing the West and its institutions each time he thinks these institutions are not generous enough to Turkey. Hence his eternal quest for new institutions like an Islamic NATO, an Islamic EU, Turkish credit rating agencies and many others. This time, he is luckier. The prime minister does not have to propose the Islamic Olympic Games.
In about 10 days from today Turkey will participate in the third Islamic Solidarity Games in Palembang, Indonesia. And who could object to it if Istanbul bids to host the fourth?