The International Olympic Committee (IOC) can take an historic decision by electing Istanbul to host the 2020 Olympic Games when they vote in Buenos Aires on September 7, the bid president Hasan Arat told AFP.
Arat, a former professional basketball player turned businessman, said the 100+ members of the IOC would be giving “hope, trust and peace to a region” should Istanbul win.
Istanbul are up against Madrid, bidding for the third successive time having finished third and then second for the 2012 and 2016 Games respectively, and Tokyo, the only one to host the Games previously in 1964 but finished third behind Rio de Janeiro and Madrid in the 2016 race.
Arat, who has led the bid with energy, unbridled passion and enthusiasm making it the most effective of the five bids by the Turkish city, said that hosting the Games would offer hope to the youth of the region and give them the right sort of role models.
It’s been suggested sport would present an alternative and inspiration to the youth of the region who it is often feared seek solace in either a sedentary existence, playing computer games or watching television, or become increasingly isolated sometimes drifting towards radicalisation.
However, Arat believes the Olympics – which would be the first to be hosted by a predominantly Muslim country – could prove to be a turning point in the region’s history and also bring more understanding of different cultures.
“The Olympic Movement can open the door to a new culture,” said Arat, who is engaged on a helter skelter tour of Europe ahead of the vote.
“It can bridge Olympic culture to new culture. A new bridge to historical impact, with 8000 years of history the Olympic Movement is not just giving the Olympic Games to a city – they (the IOC) would be giving hope, trust and peace to a region.”
Arat, who was The Economist magazine’s businessman of the year in 1996, said the future of the youth of the region could be changed forever by a vote for Istanbul.
“This bid is the future of our country; the future of our young people,” said Arat, who is a married father of two.
“It is very important for my country and for the region (the Middle East, the Gulf and Central Asia). The region will be affected, as 50 percent of people are under 25 years of age.
“In the region, look at our neighbours: 400 million in the age group! Now this Games is so important for their future and lives, creating role models. “The Olympic Movement can create history now. In this region there has never been an Olympic Games before.”
Arat was also adamant the Turkish Government was fully involved in the fight against doping which has taken on extra significance with a swathe of high profile Turkish athletes – including last year’s women’s 1500 metres Olympic champion Asli Cakir Alptekin – being exposed as drugs cheats.
International Association of Athletics Federations president Lamine Diack said on Monday that the Government had to get their house in order otherwise the Istanbul bid could be affected.
“I respect his (Diack) opinion, but I would say that Turkey is fighting very strongly against doping. We are working with the government,” said Arat.
“There is a zero tolerance policy towards it being led by our IOC member Ugur Erdemer, who is working very hard. The tests themselves are working which means people can’t hide and we are cleaning up the sports. Yes it happened (the doping) but it has to stop.
“There are two strands to the battle, testing and then the education of coaches and the athletes family. We are also establishing a special education programme.”