(Editor’s Note. This article is one of five being posted to the Digest blog on the same day. All five stories deal with a different aspect of the upcoming 2012 Summer Olympics or with the politics of the Olympic movement in general. The Digest will be running similar articles over the next few months in the run up to the start of the London Games. The United States Sports Academy founder and CEO, Dr. Thomas P. Rosandich, and the Academy sponsored the U.S. Olympic Art contest for the Summer Games. The winning entries will be part of the worldwide contest judging held in Lausanne, Switzerland in June to select the winning entries to be displayed at the London Games. Dr. Rosandich will be there as one of the judges).
The issue came to a head on Thursday (March 22) when the country’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (pictured above) took the stage at the UEFA Congress here and publicly stated for the first time that the country would like to have another crack at hosting the Euros, having controversially missed out by one vote for 2016.
UEFA President Michel Platini responded in a news conference by saying he would vote for any Turkish bid but not if Istanbul stages the Olympics since it would be impossible to host both.
The timing of Turkey’s strategy is crucial.
Next week, UEFA opens the bidding process for 2020, with a mid-May deadline for any prospective bids to be registered.
A few days later the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decides whether to cut the number of candidates bidding for the 2020 Games, or to leave it at five.
Turkey’s policy appears to be based on keeping their options open; that juggling two balls simultaneously will give them a better chance of staging either the Olympics or the Euros rather than neither.
It is now emerging that Erdogan’s comments, reported at the time to have caught Olympic organisers on the hop, may have been deliberately designed to use the biggest possible UEFA stage to keep Turkey’s Euro interests in the spotlight – and keep Platini sweet.
With at least one other Euro bid likely – there is talk of a possible joint campaign from Bulgaria and Romania – Erdogan wanted to ensure that UEFA’s 53 member nations were left in no doubt that that Turkey was just as enthusiastic as they were last time.
Turkish Olympic officials were in London at the time but insist they were not in the least embarrassed by his comments.
The thinking behind this seems to be that the country will drop any Euro bid if the IOC votes for Istanbul in September next year.
If it does not, the country can fall back on the Euros.
The reverse is also true.
It is a calculated gamble, especially financially, much of which is being played out behind closed doors.
But the country is determined not to be left behind once again as the bridesmaid.
“What we want above all is to secure one big event,” Ali Kiremitciogly, a prominent member of Istanbul 2020, exclusively told insidethegames here.
“We are very ambitious and I was not surprised by Erdogan’s comments at the UEFA Congress because we are hungry.
“I can only talk for the Olympics.
“There is huge popular support, far more than before – and that is without any significant public relations activity at all.
“Let’s see what happens after May.
“Until then, we really can’t say too much more.”
Istanbul is the only one of the five candidates not to have so far announced a bid leader.
The early stages of the campaign have been coordinated by Ugur Erdener, the President of the National Olympic Committee of Turkey (NOCT) and a member of the IOC, and Hasan Arat, the vice-president of the NOCT and a hugely successful businessman.
Arat was widely expected to be confirmed as the leader by now but there has still been nothing official.
In the meantime, he continues to be the front man in dealings with the IOC.
One of the criticisms of Istanbul’s bid is they only have two bridges for transport links.
The traffic is at times horrendous but there are firm plans in place to ease the congestion.
“We will have a third bridge by the time of the Games as well as a sophisticated rail tunnel,” Kiremitciogly told insidethegames.
Visa controls are another pressing issue, with only two counters for the thousands of visitors who pour into Istanbul’s airport on a daily basis, with foreigners asked to pay in their own currency if possible.
“It’s a very easy problem to solve and it will be,” Kiremitciogly said.
He points towards the success of the recent World Indoor Athletics Championships as proof of Turkey’s credentials for staging major events, another 20 of which roughly will be held before the IOC meeting in Quebec on May 23.
If they end up securing the Games, the Olympic Village will thereafter become an international training centre, a significant legacy factor.
All focus right now is making the IOC shortlist in Quebec.
By then, Turkey will have made its decision about staging the Euros.
“I can’t say whether the IOC will cut or not but bidding always seems throw up surprises,” Kiremitcioglu told insidethegames.
“We can’t afford to take our eye off the ball but we have done a great job in terms of satisfying IOC requirements.
“The President, the Prime Minister, the Sports Minister and the Mayor [of Istanbul] are all from the same political party.
“They speak the same language, so to speak.
“That’s very important.
“Government funding is ready, private funding is ready.
“We have all the guarantees.
“We are learning from the mistakes of the past.”
Contact the writer of this story at email@example.com. Inside the Games is a blog of the London Games organizing committee. It is an excellent source of information on the upcoming Summer Games and the Olympic movement in general. This article is reprinted here with permission.