POSTED: August 6th 2013

JOHN GOODBODY: Istanbul has had a rocky summer in its Olympic bid

Europe and Asia are bridged together like the bid slogan
Europe and Asia are bridged together like the bid slogan

THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) There is much to commend in Istanbul’s bid for the 2020 Olympics. Staging the Games there would bring  the Olympic Movement for the first time to another substantial country, just as it will do for Brazil when Rio de Janeiro is the host in 2016.Turkey would also be the first Moslem nation  to stage the event, while the bid’s slogan ‘Bridge Together’ emphasises how the country straddles both Europe and Asia, another attractive feature for voters.

Istanbul would certainly open ‘new doors’, more so than its two rivals, Tokyo, the favourite, and Madrid.  Japan has already staged two Winter Games although the last and only occasion for the Summer Olympics was in 1964, nearly 50 years ago. Madrid is the only large European capital never to have hosted the Summer Olympics, although Barcelona did stage them in 1992, to considerable acclaim.   

Istanbul has also been persistent in its efforts. It has previously tried to get the Games in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 and members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) like to see such dedication. These bids have also meant that the city has each time increased the number of facilities available and has honed its preparations.

In the IOC vote in Buenos Aires on September 7 against Tokyo and Madrid, Istanbul has the disadvantage, shared with the Spanish capital, that several European IOC members from countries considering bidding for the 2024 Olympics (France for example) will want Tokyo to get the 2020 Games so that their cities can try for 2024. Not since the 1948 and 1952, has the IOC given successive Summer Games to the same continent.

 However, this summer has been vexing for the Istanbul bid committee. The political demonstrations in the city were one thing but the rigorous, some would say ruthless, suppression by the police was another. The widespread television coverage of the violence certainly did not help although Dr. Jacques Rogge, the IOC President, and Dr. Thomas Bach, his probable heir apparent, predictably said that the bid would not be affected.

More serious was the recent rash of 31 positive drugs tests in athletics, the centrepiece of the Olympic programme. These include Esref Apak, the 2004 Olympic hammer silver medallist, who was one of eight Turkish competitors found positive after the European Team Championships in Gateshead in June. Others came before and during the Mediterranean Games in the same month, while an invesigation has now been  launched into the adverse finding of Asli Cakir Alptekin, the 2012 Olympic gold medal winner in London.

Mehmet Terzi, the President of the Turkish Athletic Federation, has also resigned because of the scandal. Although Ugur Erderner, President of Turkey’s national Olympic Committee, spoke of the rash of positive tests in saying that the country had implemented a “much more aggressive anti-doping policy”that had been in place for the last six months.

Well up to a point. However many were caught by international doping authorities and Lamine Diack, the President of the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) and an IOC member has warned that Turkey must do more to combat drug-taking if they are to bid for the Games.

The timing of these announcements, just a month before the vote and a few days before the World Athletics Championships open in Moscow, cannot have helped Istanbul. It now has some serious work to do to bolster its case for getting the Games.

** JOHN GOODBODY covered the 2012 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 12th successive Summer Games and is the author of the audio book A History of the Olympics, read by Barry Davies, the BBC commentator. He was Sports News Correspondent of The Times 1986-2007, for whom he received journalistic awards in all three decades on the paper, including Sports Reporter of The Year in 2001.  

Keywords · John Goodbody · Istanbul · Olympic bidding ·

For more information contact:
Laura Walden ()

All original materials contained in this section are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Sports Features Communications, Inc the owner of that content. It is prohibited to alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.