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Volume 10 No. 24


Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan "faces a nerve-wracking weekend -- one that could affect the future course of his rule," according to Daniel Dombey of the FINANCIAL TIMES. With Erdogan's home city of Istanbul’s "bid for the 2020 Olympic Summer Games due to be decided at the meeting in Argentina this Saturday, much more than mere sport is at stake." Turkey would not only be the first "Muslim majority country to host the games." Erdogan has also "identified success in the Olympic bid as a mark of the country’s emergence as a rising power on the world stage." Istanbul 2020 CEO Hasan Arat said, "It is very important for him to come here and be the captain of the team. This is his great dream." But after early months in which "success seemed all but assured, troubles have come crowding in." At the end of a "turbulent summer that has seen mass protests against his rule and mounting concern about the health of the Turkish economy," Erdogan is looking for "a measure of international recognition and a political and economic boost." Istanbul’s bid "stands out, not just for its undeniably spectacular ambitions ... but also for the sheer scale of its infrastructure spending." Istanbul has "committed itself" to a $19.2B budget for "related urban improvements as well as the cost of operating the Games themselves." The city’s formal bid book says that the "lion’s share of the funds" -- more than $10B -- would go to "roads and railways and the entire budget has been guaranteed by the government." Much has "changed since the bid was formally submitted." Turkey’s image has "been damaged by the clashes between protesters and police." Accusations of "government authoritarianism have continued," and the bid has also been "clouded by a spate of doping scandals." Turkey's economic prospects have been "affected by the general turn away from emerging markets, raising questions about how easy it will be to raise finance for such large infrastructure investments" (FT, 9/4). In London, Rick Broadbent wrote "In the plush corridors of power, which double as the Buenos Aires Hilton, the Olympic sport of schmoozing is reaching its climax. Princes, pole vaulters, sheikhs and soccer stars are shaking on the greatest prize in sport. The biggest bill will follow." The race is down to a battle between Tokyo, Madrid and Istanbul, which a cynic may see "as a battle between radioactive leaks, economic meltdown and riots in the streets." That premise "adds resonance to the words of Thomas Bach, the favourite to succeed Jacques Rogge as president of the IOC, when he spoke of sport’s grand delusions. 'The first is that it has nothing to do with politics,' he said. 'The second is that it has nothing to with money'” (LONDON TIMES, 9/5).

TOKYO CONFIDENT: KYODO's Dave Hueston reported "by most experts' accounts, although the possibility of a few swing voters can't be ruled out, Tokyo is likely to be voted in as the 'safest' choice among the three candidates." Tokyo Governor Naoki Inose said, "I'm in the final track race. There is no looking behind, no looking to the side; I intend to dash to the finish." Tokyo is bidding for the second time in a row. Its main theme: "reliability and safety in a time of global uncertainty. Madrid is making its third straight attempt, while Istanbul is bidding for the fifth time." This time, however, it is not "necessarily who has the strongest bid, but whose bid appears to have the fewest pitfalls in light of other political or economic shortcomings." Tokyo still faces questions on how "it is coping with a massive leak of radioactive water at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima following meltdowns triggered by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami." Olympic experts also point out that "another drawback for Tokyo is the fact that Pyeongchang, South Korea, is hosting the 2018 Winter Games (IOC members might not want back-to-back Games in Asia)." Madrid, whose bid was "nearly dead on arrival because of Spain's ongoing economic crisis when launched two years ago," has made a resurgence as the "low-cost alternative," with 80% of the "venues ready and a construction budget" of €1.5Bs ($1.9B) (KYODO, 9/4).

FUKUSHIMA OVERSHADOWING BID: The AFP reported the "battered nuclear plant at Fukushima, where radioactive water is leaking into the ocean, hangs over Tokyo's bid for the 2020 Olympic Games." Just "two-and-a-half years into what could be a four-decade clean-up, the nuclear disaster sparked by an earthquake and tsunami is very much the Achilles heel of Tokyo's effort to bag the Games." Tokyo 2020 supporters, "chief among them" Japan PM Shinzo Abe, insist that the plant, 220 km north of Tokyo, "poses no danger to athletes or spectators." Abe said, "Voices of concern have been raised about the waste water problem in Fukushima. The government will stand at the forefront to completely fix this problem. I want to explain that this is not going to be a problem in any way in seven years' time" (AFP, 9/4).

OLYMPIC 'GURU' FAVORS MADRID: In Madrid, Juan Jiménez reported Duncan Mackay "is an Olympic guru." Mackay works for Inside The Games, which "specializes in Olympic projects and races and has written about the Olympic universe for more than 25 years." Mackay, who was "chosen as the best British Internet sportswriter in '09," said, "Madrid is the favorite, without a doubt. The other two candidates have problems, a lot of problems in recent months. First, Istanbul with massive doping problems to which the Syria problem has been added. And in Japan, the effects of the Fukushima problems are long-term problems. Madrid is ahead, it is the favorite" (AS, 9/4).

Organizers of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics made it clear that "they have no intention of splitting Olympic skiing events with North Korea," according to Jung Min-ho of the KOREA TIMES. North Korea IOC representative Chang Ung suggested that the country’s Masik ski resort, more than 300km away from PyeongChang, "could be used as a competition venue once construction is completed." Officials at PyeongChang, however, said Chang’s idea would be “practically impossible’’ (KOREA TIMES, 9/4). In Seoul, Oliver Hotham reported PyeongChang organizers argue that rule 34 of the IOC’s Olympic Charter stipulates that "events must take place in the host city, unless the IOC Executive Board allows it." Other cities can only host events on an “exceptional basis,” and the organizers warned that it "would be impractical to host events" in North Korea. Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Sociology and Modern Korea Leeds University Aidan Foster-Carter said while “a lot can happen in five years,” for the North to host any event it “would really have to clean up its act.” This "is not the first time North Koreans have expressed a desire to split the 2018 games with the South." When PyeongChang was first granted the right to host the games in '11, North Korean spokesperson Chang Ung said that "he hoped both Koreas could host the games" (NK NEWS, 9/4).

ROGGE AGAINST MOVE: REUTERS' Kim & Lee reported IOC President Jacques Rogge "has previously expressed opposition to co-hosting events with North Korea," saying in '11 that the IOC "would consider allowing the two Koreas to march together at the 2018 opening ceremony but not to share events." Rogge: "As far as spreading venues between the two countries, that is something we do not consider under the current Olympic Charter." Chang told U.S. funded broadcaster Voice of America that "the Masik resort could possibly hold 2018 events if an agreement could be reached." Chang: "When construction is complete, it (Masik) can be used in an international event and possibly in the Olympic Games." Chang acknowledged, however, that "it was not a simple decision to make and that there would have to be complex discussions among several bodies such as the IOC and International Ski Federation to assess the possibility" (REUTERS, 9/4).

India's elite athletes "have piled the pressure" on the Indian Olympic Association and "demanded the removal of all tainted officials in order to overturn the country's Olympic ban," according to REUTERS. The IOA was suspended by the IOC last year for electing Lalit Bhanot, "who served 11 months in jail on corruption charges, as its secretary general during its controversial December poll." The IOC "offered the country a lifeline, asking the suspended IOA to amend its constitution and, among other things, bar any person charged for corruption from holding office." But in a meeting this month, "the IOA refused such a blanket ban." Abhinav Bindra, who won India's only individual Olympic gold at the 2008 Beijing Games, said that "the administrators have failed the country." Bindra said, "The ethical standards are laid down under the Olympic Charter and to defy that is not good. It does not go well for the Olympic movement." Bindra has been joined by wrestling Bronze and Silver Medalist Sushil Kumar and multiple grand slam doubles-winning tennis player Mahesh Bhupathi "in demanding a corruption-free IOA" (REUTERS, 9/4).

Great Britain's men's basketball team heads to the EuroBasket in Slovenia knowing the future of its Olympic funding "hangs in the balance." For funding to extend beyond an initial 12 months, it "set the target of a top-six finish at the EuroBasket." The team begins "against Israel on Wednesday" (BBC, 9/4). ... IOC inspectors have seen "strong, solid progress" but think organizers need a sharper focus in the countdown to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. The IOC coordination commission, headed by former Olympic hurdles champion Nawal El Moutawakel, "finished a two-day inspection visit on Monday and seemed to take a stronger tone than on its previous four visits" (AP, 9/4). ... The Sochi 2014 organizing committee said Wednesday that "tickets for the first Russian Paralympic Winter Games will go on sale Sept. 27" (MOSCOW TIMES, 9/4).