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SBD Global/June 17, 2013/Olympics

Turmoil In Istanbul Clouds Turkey's Chances Of Landing 2020 Olympics Bid

There were "hundreds of pairs of swim goggles for sale in the heart of Istanbul this past week," but while the goggles "gave the bustling streets a certain sporty air, this was not good news at last for the city’s Olympic bid," according to Christopher Clarey of the N.Y. TIMES. The goggles "were being snapped up for protection against the possibility of more tear gas in Taksim Square and the adjoining Gezi Park as the standoff between protesters and the Turkish police continued." However, the timing of this "has hardly been a Turkish delight for those who hope Istanbul’s fifth bid for the Olympic Games will finally be the winning bid." Tokyo and Madrid are the other candidates. Longtime IOC member Dick Pound said, "It is potentially a pity, since my impression, from what I hear, is that the 2020 race may be Istanbul’s to lose." Istanbul, if stable, is "indeed potential catnip" to the IOC. It is "new and symbolic Olympic territory, a historic and contemporary bridge between Asia and Europe with a largely Muslim nation and a moderately Islamist government, challenging Turkey’s secular traditions." The vote is still nearly three months away, which means there is "still time for Istanbul to put some meaningful space between the past week’s violent clashes in Taksim Square and the decision." Former IOC Marketing Dir Michael Payne said, "It’s going to be quite a roller-coaster ride for everybody involved in the bid up until September" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/15).

'VOICE OF TOLERANCE': The AP reported as officials in Turkey "lashed out at protesters," leaders of Istanbul's 2020 bid "sought to diminish the impact of the unrest in a presentation Saturday to a key audience of Olympic officials from around the world." Istanbul officials said the "voice of tolerance" will prevail in the wake of the anti-government demonstrations that "have roiled Turkey for two weeks and raised questions about the country's readiness to host the Olympics." The Istanbul bid team addressed the crisis directly in a presentation to a conference of more than 200 national Olympic committees Saturday (AP, 6/15).
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