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A general view of the construction of soccer club Besiktas' Inonu Stadium is seen in Istanbul September 1, 2013. Along the picturesque Bosphorus Straits dividing Europe and Asia, Istanbul is undergoing a transformation which should fill Turkey with confidence in its bid to become the first Muslim country to stage the Olympics in 2020. Overlooking the waterway, mechanical diggers are tearing down Besiktas' Inonu Stadium to make way for a state-of-the-art facility earmarked to stage rugby in 2020, and to the north construction of the city's third suspension bridge is underway. (OSMAN ORSAL/Reuters)
A general view of the construction of soccer club Besiktas' Inonu Stadium is seen in Istanbul September 1, 2013. Along the picturesque Bosphorus Straits dividing Europe and Asia, Istanbul is undergoing a transformation which should fill Turkey with confidence in its bid to become the first Muslim country to stage the Olympics in 2020. Overlooking the waterway, mechanical diggers are tearing down Besiktas' Inonu Stadium to make way for a state-of-the-art facility earmarked to stage rugby in 2020, and to the north construction of the city's third suspension bridge is underway. (OSMAN ORSAL/Reuters)

Olympic bid cities have distinctive pitches, but all have drawbacks Add to ...

The head of Turkey’s bid says a vote for Istanbul would “make history.” No Muslim country has hosted the Olympics, so Turkey would be a first. “The Olympic Movement can open the door to a new culture,” Hasan Arat said. “In this region there has never been an Olympic Games before.”

Istanbul is also selling the region’s youth: “Look at our neighbours, 400 million in the age group [under-25s],” Mr. Arat said “Now this Games is so important for their future and lives, creating role models.”

Like all the bidders, Turkey claims it has the best financial conditions for the Games and is most likely to complete projects on time. It would also be, organizers say, an unrivalled experience for athletes.

“Imagine being a marathon runner crossing continents over the Bosporus Bridge, a triathlete racing alongside Istanbul’s 2,500 year-old city walls or a volleyball player spiking for the match with the Bosporus at your back,” Turkish IOC member Ugur Erdener said. “Istanbul has that magic athletes thrive on and they will be at the centre of the greatest stage in 2020.”

DRAWBACKS

Geopolitics, especially the feeling that Istanbul is a risky choice given its proximity to Syria – with a U.S. military strike likely imminent against the Syrian government and the strain on Turkey of a refugee exodus from Syria’s civil war.

Turkey’s bid could also be derailed by anti-government protests that rocked the country in June. The Turkish government’s heavy-handed response left at least five dead and thousands injured during three weeks of clashes between police and protesters, earning Ankara a strong rebuke from its Western allies.

Sports Minister Suat Kilic brushed aside concerns that the recent unrest would harm Istanbul’s Olympic chances, but added: “It would be much better if we had not experienced this. We had two years without any problems.”

With reports from Reuters, AP and AFP

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