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  • On the Scene - Turkish Sports Minister Talks Up Istanbul Bid; IOC Heads to Asia


    Turkish sports minister Suat Kilic (ATR/Panasonic)
    (ATR) As the IOC prepares to inspect the Asian side of Istanbul’s bid, Suat Kilic tells Around the Rings that the FIFA U-20 World Cup this summer will elevate the city’s Olympic ambitions.

    On Tuesday, the evaluation commission led by Craig Reedie travels across the Bosphorus to check out the Port cluster venue plans. They include facilities for rowing and canoe-kayak, archery, beach volleyball and football.

    The 14-member IOC panel will also hear presentations on the themes of accommodation, transport and media operations.

    Turkish sports minister Kilic told ATR that the three-week FIFA tournament, the biggest sporting event ever to be held in Turkey, would be a platform to “showcase Turkey’s capabilities” to host the 2020 Games. The 24-team competition is to be staged in seven host cities from June 21 to July 13.

    He said the Mediterranean Games in Mersin in June, which will involve all 24 member NOCs  of the International Committee of Mediterranean Games, would also help promote Istanbul 2020’s bid.

    “International sports authorities will think that if Turkey is capable of hosting two great sporting events at the same time, it’s capable of host the Olympics,” he said with confidence.

    At a briefing on day two of the IOC’s Istanbul inspection, Kilic emphasized that Istanbul had learnt lessons from its four failed bids. “We have gained more experience and improved for 2020, all sectors have joined hands,” he told a press conference.

    “Istanbul deserves to become the Olympic city. In 2020, we are not only promising to have a good Games they will be fantastic Olympic Games.”

    He added: “If the Olympic Family picks Istanbul it will not regret it, we will fulfill all our promises. There won’t be any delay in realizing our commitments, be it venues or construction works.”

    Asked if he should perhaps be more humble about Istanbul’s bid, rather than saying the city deserved the Games, Kilic said: “I share what I believe is true for Istanbul 2020.

    “We are trying to tell you to what extent we want and are willing to host the Games. The words we are using reflect our excitement and commitment
    Istanbul bid leader Hasan Arat, Olympic Games exec director Gilbert Felli, Claudia Bokel and Patrick Baumann watch Frank Fredericks' basketball skills (ATR/Panasonic)
    of the government and city.”

    He was quick to say the Turkish bid was respecting IOC rules by not making any negative remarks about the other candidates, Madrid and Tokyo.

    “We don’t criticize or belittle them or underestimate them.”

    On Monday, the IOC inspection team toured the Bosphorus Zone on the European side, which includes Besiktas football club’s stadium that would stage rugby sevens, and venues in the Coastal Zone with views out to the Sea of Marmara and Asia beyond.

    The 65-year-old football stadium is undergoing a complete refurb to raise capacity to 40,000.

    Emir Turam, Istanbul 2020’s communications advisor, told journalists it was the perfect venue for rugby – and he cooked up a good phrase too.

    “Rugby players can aim for Asia when they are kicking for goal, an intercontinental conversion,” he quipped.

    Next stop for the IOC and media was the Golden Gate Arena, proposed venue for handball and goalball. An exhibition of goalball was taking place involving athletes who competed in the sport at Last year’s Paralympics.

    At the Atakoy Dome, the 16,000-seater basketball arena, the media intersected with the IOC delegation. Inspection chief Reedie was seen shooting the hoops, adopting netball throwing techniques to score a few points. Frank Fredericks and Claudia Bokel also joined in the fun, while Istanbul bid chief Hasan Arat stuck in a handful of three-pointers to show who was bossing the court.

    The arena hosted the 2010 FIBA worlds and the FINA short course swimming world championships last December. A fully demountable pool was fitted turning the basketball configuration into swimming mode in just four days.

    Atakoy Arena, adjacent to the dome and setting for the IAAF indoor athletics worlds in December, was the final stop on the venue tour. Fencing and taekwondo would take place here at the 2020 Games. A fencing demonstration was staged for the media, wrapping up day two of the IOC visit.

    Reported by Mark Bisson

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