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  • On-The-Scene -- Bidding in Buenos Aires


    Youth Rules for Istanbul

    Istanbul announced that 50 talented athletes, ages 17 to 25, will make up half of its 100-member delegation in the room during Saturday’s presentation.

    Arat hit the court today with some of Turkey's young ambassadors. (Getty Images)
    The number is symbolic because nearly half of Turkey’s population of 74 million is under age 25.

    Bid chairman Hasan Arat had promised a surprise on Thursday. Although the emphasis on youth was not unexpected, given that the bid campaign has repeatedly called Turkey the youngest country in Europe, the seating chart may shock some Turkish bigwigs who made the trek to Buenos Aires.

    Arat said the young ambassadors will sit in the front row “ahead of our politicians and our business leaders, because they are the forefront of Turkey’s future. On Turkey’s biggest day we are turning to our young people. Our futures are in their hands.”

    This strategy has worked before. The 2012 London bid campaign also stressed youth during its presentation in Singapore in 2005, while back in 1990, the Atlanta bid brought a “Dream Team” of young ambassadors to Tokyo.

    Istanbul 2020 went a step further, saying that a Youth & Education Steering Committee would be integrated with the Olympic organizing committee.

    Asked what they thought of the recent riots in Turkey and if the country was heading in the right direction, a young female athlete spoke for the group at Arat’s suggestion.

    “I think that’s kind of a normal thing,” said Esen Kucuktutuncu, the captain of her high school volleyball team who hopes to make the national team one day. “It’s a democracy and people have the right to protest. It happened in London and lots of countries... It was OK, it was normal.”

    After Arat posed for photos with 21 of the 50 young ambassadors (the rest are still traveling), they went outside to shoot some hoops on the tennis courts at the Sheraton hotel. Arat, a former Turkish Basketball League player, got in on the action.

    More Fukushima Questions for Tokyo

    Tokyo 2020 rolled out its athletes to media in Buenos Aires but questions about the Fukushima nuclear crisis continue to impact the bid campaign.

    A number of athletes were on hand to support the Tokyo 2020 bid. (Getty Images)
    Fifteen members of the bid’s athletes’ commission unveiled a declaration to use the power of sport to inspire the next generation.

    Yuko Arakida, Tokyo 2020 sports director, spoke about Japan’s passion for sport and how input from athletes past and present had contributed to the bid effort.

    She was less forthcoming when asked by Around the Rings for her message to athletes around the world who were reading about the nuclear leaks and might be worried about how they would be affected if Tokyo wins the Games.

    “Needless to say, we want this problem to solved as soon as possible. But by hosting the Olympics in Japan, we will encourage the children from the affected area,” she said.

    Tokyo had expected questions about Fukushima and used certain athletes to respond to them in an attempt to allay fears about risks from the damaged nuclear reactor. But remarks were short, as they sought to keep to the theme of the news conference.

    Saburo Kawabuchi, a 1964 Olympian described as the father of Japanese football, was asked how the athletes’ commission would reassure the country’s athletes that no problem existed.

    “The government is working to resolve the problem,” was all he would say.

    Hiroshi Hase, a wrestling Olympian at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, spoke about the issue in his capacity as a lawmaker in the Japan’s House of Representatives.

    He said that after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the government had agreed a program to treat contaminated water and debris, claiming the radioactive level was “not an issue for the health of people at all."

    On Wednesday, bid president Tsunekazu Takeda offered reassurances that the radiation level in Tokyo was “the same as London, New York and Paris."

    The Buenos Aires Hilton is the site of the 125th IOC Session. (ATR)
    Tokyo’s athletes took a sly dig at Turkey’s doping problems. Two athletes underlined Japan's outstanding record in the fight against doping.

    Yuki Ota, Olympian and double silver medallist in fencing, said Saturday’s presentation to IOC members would address “one of the biggest threats facing sport today – doping."

    “I am proud that no Japanese athlete has ever failed a doping test at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Japan has a perfect record,” he told reporters, stressing that the nation’s anti-doping record was built on a longstanding dedication to integrity and fair play and education in the school curriculum.

    In comments about Tokyo’s final presentation, he added, “There is a real buzz in the rehearsal room, an enormously strong feeling of unity within our team, and a great excitement building about presenting our Games vision to the distinguished members of the IOC." 

    Reported by Mark Bisson and Karen Rosen

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