Nanjing (China), Aug 18: The Olympic Movement will create a series of historic firsts if the International Olympic Committee (IOC) award the 2020 Summer Games to Istanbul, bid chairman Hasan Arat said here Sunday.
Istanbul 2020 bid officials came to Nanjing this week on the occasion of the second Asian Youth Games to promote their bid, which is in the final weeks of the race against Madrid and Tokyo, reports Xinhua.
The IOC will choose the 2020 host city by a secret vote on Sep 7 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“It can bridge Olympic culture to new culture. A new bridge to historical impact. A bridge to excellence. A bridge to the future of our young generations,” said Arat, referring to the Turkish city’s bid slogan, “Bridge together”.
The 2020 Olympics would be the first ever Games staged across two continents simultaneously – Eurasia, and the first to be hosted by a predominantly Muslim country as well, should Istanbul win.
“Imagine in the morning you can watch rowing in Asia, while in the afternoon you can watch basketball in Europe. That can only happen in Istanbul. This is the magic of Istanbul,” Arat said.
Arat, a former professional basketball player turned businessman, stressed that the future of the youth in the region could be changed forever by a vote for Istanbul.
“This bid is for the future of our country, the future of our young people, as 50 percent of Turkish population are under 25 years old,” he said.
“It will not only affect the youth in Istanbul, in Turkey, but also the young people around neighbourhood countries.”
Arat is optimistic about Istanbul’s fifth bid, stating that over the past several years the city has seen the development of new venues and infrastructure improvements. Turkey’s fast growing economy can also greatly benefit the bid, he said.
In addition, there is “perfect alliance” in Turkey this time, “from the top to the bottom, from the government to the people,” said Arat.
According to Arat, public support for the Olympic bid has risen to 94 percent among Istanbul residents. He said the bid committee carried out its own survey about two months ago.
The 94 percent support level is higher than the 83 percent figure recorded in a poll carried out earlier this year by the IOC. That was already the highest support among the three bid cities, with 76 percent for Madrid and 70 percent for Tokyo.
However, anti-government protests that swept across Turkey in June have cast a shadow over Istanbul’s bid.
“Generally, I don’t see that is a big issue for our bid, because Turkey is a stable country, not a country which have a lot of ups and downs. You can see it from the economy. If you have problems, you cannot grow in economy,” he said.
Istanbul’s bid has also been affected by a spate of doping cases involving Turkish athletes. In May, Olympic 1,500-meter champion Asli Cakir Alptekin and two-time European 100-meter hurdles champion Nevin Yanit were charged with doping violations.
“This is a global issue,” Arat said. “What we are looking for the future is clean athletes for the 2016 and 2020 Games. That’s why the Turkish government is pushing so hard to make zero tolerance to those who cheat. We go so tough, that is very well received by the IOC members.
“When you test, you get the positive results. When you don’t test, you don’t get positive results. It’s positive. We are cleaning the house,” he said.