Turkey to take UK lessons in Olympic policy

Turkey to take UK lessons in Olympic policy

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey to take UK lessons in Olympic policy

U.K. Minister for Sport and Tourism Hugh Robertson, DAILY NEWS photo/ Emrah GÜREL

Hoping for success in its 2020 Olympic Games bid, Istanbul has taken some valuable lessons from London, with U.K. Minister for Sport and Tourism Hugh Robertson paying a visit to Turkey this week.

Robertson spoke with a number of officials, including Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş, his Turkish counterpart Suat Kılıç, and members of the National Olympic Committee, in separate meetings. The talks inevitably focused on Istanbul’s bid to host the 2020 Games.

Mayor Topbaş said Robertson had shared London’s “experience” with Istanbul, adding that Istanbul had the backing of the U.K.

Robertson said Istanbul had a “very strong” bid in his interview with the Hürriyet Daily News.

“I saw the plans, there is no doubt that Istanbul can make this work,” Robertson said. “There is a very strong vision behind the Istanbul bid. It’s about putting together the best of Europe and Asia, about a vibrant emerging city whose time has come, about a young population and all the contacts Turkey has across the world. It’s a very compelling vision.”

Britain is reaping the benefits of the 2012 London Games and Turkey can be inspired by the legacy it left to the United Kingdom.


UK Minister for Sport and Tourism
Hugh Robertson(R) responds to
the questions of Hürriyet Daily
News’ sports editor Çetin Çetin
Cem Yılmaz in an interview.

“The thing interesting thing about the Olympic Games is that if you had asked me that question a year ago I would have given you a different answer than the one I’ll give you now,” Robertson said. “The strongest legacy of the Games is the way it changes the way the rest of the world feels about you.
Before the Olympics, they thought of London in a particular way, and when they see that you can make it work, it completely changes how people look at you.”

“In terms of the economic interest, we have already seen big uplifts in the number of tourists. If Istanbul wins the bid, you’ll see a similar thing here in Istanbul. It will change the way people look at the city and Turkey,” he said.

Record budget

Aside from the organizational aspects, Britain fared very well in the Olympics in terms of sporting success. The U.K. won at total of 65 medals, thus completing its most successful performance. Robertson cites a four-faceted plan that dates back to the day London started bidding for the Games.

First comes money; secondly, “a proper system in sports” is needed; then come “top-class coaches”; and finally come the athletes with “the mental and physical aptitude” to succeed.

Robertson said that the U.K. started out with a few sports in which it could win medals, but had to concentrate on developing those lower on the roster. In each passing Games, the system has been integrated to include more sports.

Last year, a record budget of 347 million pounds for the 2016 Rio Games was announced by U.K. Sport. Some sports’ funding, such as basketball and handball, were completely cut, but others saw a remarkable increase.

“We have a very straightforward system. We invest in success. We put the money into those sports where we have the greatest chance of winning medals,” Robertson said, referring to the bitter pill that some sports have had to take. “[It’s] cruel to be kind.”

As for the method of bringing talent from outside the country, a path that Turkey has been following, Robertson defends the idea.

“I think you have to accept it. Turkey has a huge diaspora, lots of people with Turkish connections living in other countries. If they want to come back and compete for Turkey and they meet Turkish residency qualifications then I see no problems in doing it,” he said, before touching on the NBA players who joined Team U.K. in basketball events. “Certainly, I was very keen to ensure that with the British team for London, nobody was selected for that team who was not a British national. There were people who had American accents, but they had British parents.”