125th IOC OLYMPIC COMMITTEE SESSIONTuesday, September 3, 2013
Istanbul Chairman: ‘We want to make people’s dream come true’
The Olympic rings have moved to Buenos Aires, where the 125th International Olympic Committee Session starts tomorrow. Saturday will be a key day for Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo. The three cities submitted their bids for the 2020 Olympic Games and the winner’s name will be unveiled on Saturday afternoon.
Hasan Arat is Istanbul 2020 Bid Chairman and the Vice-President of the Turkish National Olympic Committee. Just a few days after arriving for the first time in Buenos Aires, he talked with the Herald in his hotel. A former basketball-player, Arat started the interview remarking how glad he is in Buenos Aires. A small city tour, a dinner in a restaurant in La Boca, a tango show and a visit to La Bombonera to see Boca’s 2-1 win over Vélez Sarsfield on Sunday made him promise himself that he will return just for holidays.
“Buenos Aires is very similar to Turkey. There are many people coming and going between both countries and Messi is the face of Turkish Airlines,” he said remarking that his mission slogan of the submission is to bridge together and that he found an imaginary bridge between both countries.
Why does the International Olympic Committee have to choose Istanbul?
Istanbul has been trying to host the Olympic Games for a long time and with great support from the population. Turkey has had great economic development in the last 10 years, which helped the country to organize several important sporting events. This is why we consider that it is the best time for hosting the Olympic Games. Turkey is the 16th economy of the world and is expected to climb to 10th place in 2020. Apart from that, it will be the first Olympic Games held in two continents (Europe and Asia). Istanbul has a rich and long history. Three great empires were created in its land over more than 8,000 years. Another unique characteristic is that Turkey has the youngest population of Europe as 50 per cent of them are under 25.
Why is it so?
Turkey is a young country which hosts many students. Most of them also practise sports. That is the main reason for such great support.
What about religion?
Some 90 per cent of the population is Muslim but it is a secular and democratic state.
Will it be any restriction on the dress code for sportswomen?
No! If you have ever visited Istanbul, you will know that the dress code is open. The female sport is very developed. About 60 per cent of the Turkish team in London 2012 was female and the volleyball captain Neslihan Darner was the flag-bearer. Turkey also gave voting rights to women before many other European countries. It is a country where Jews, Christians and Muslims co-exist peacefully. We are very proud of that.
Which is the main advantage of Istanbul comparing with Tokyo and Madrid?
Turkey has never hosted the Olympic Games. Nor the region. Japan has hosted them three times and Spain once. We consider that the Olympic movement must open itself to new “worlds.”
According to the IOC, Istanbul is the bid which needs to build more facilities than the other two. How do you plan to solve it?
The other countries have facilities from previous editions. They realized that the Olympics Games change the host cities and countries. They also generate great income. Turkey is already spending big on infrastructure as it will celebrate its centenary in 2023. So, many facilities were already built, others are in progress and there are scheduled removal facilities. Turkey has already hosted the Mediterranean Games in June and we ended the facilities in 18 months. Turkish builders are very talented!
In which sports does Istanbul lack facilities?
Mainly those sports less practised in our country like rugby or field hockey. The Olympics will also promote them as the volunteers will work in all sports facilities and we may have an interesting exchange in that experience.
Which are the most popular sports in Turkey?
Soccer, basketball and volleyball. (Former River Plate and national team striker Ariel) Ortega played in our country! (Emanuel) Ginóbili had Turkish teammates in San Antonio Spurs! There are many links between Argentine and Turkish sportspeople.
We have recently reached top positions in international tournaments like winning the men’s silver medal in the 2010 World Cup, which we hosted. This encouraged young people. There are 20 million students in Turkey. So, we need the complexes built for the Olympic Games to canalize their requests.
Are you planning any special event in the Games?
Yes. Something never seen before: the marathon will start in Asia and end in Europe passing through the Ancient City. So TV-viewers can see Eastern and Western cultures at nearly the same time. Also, a beach-volley match in Asia and a rugby match in Europe. All connected with an underpass train which crosses the sea. Istanbul has a big and diverse offer in tasty meals. You can eat watching the Bosphorus Sea. It ranks as the fifth city of the world for receptive tourism.
Do you expect any social protest due to the big spending needed for hosting the Games?
We have the support of the people because the investment in sports means investments in other areas like transport. Turkey did not have an underground before 1992 and we currently have a modern system of 667 kilometres which also crosses the sea!
What about the Olympic Park? What it will be used for after the Games?
It will be placed in Europe and will later be a sporting development national centre. The Park is planned since 1992 according to the Olympic request so we can start the building as soon as we are chosen. The underground has already a stop in that place so that visitors and sportspeople can travel alongside the city in a short time.
How much time will it take?
It depends on the stop where you climb but we expect an average of 16 minutes in every transfer. Istanbul has a solid bid. I hope to have the same success as Gerardo (Werthein, Argentine Olympic Committee president), who recently promoted the election of Buenos Aires as host city for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games. Argentines must be proud of him.
What percentage of success do you expect?
I want before to clear up that it has been a tough competition and that I see the three cities “running a marathon” and reaching the last 30 metres very level but we think we will win. It is a never-seen option and the city with most local support. If 83 percent of the Istanbul population supported the Games in March, this climbed to 95 percent last week. We want to make the people’s dream come true.