IOC panel has ‘excellent impression’ of Istanbul

The IOC came away with an ”excellent impression” Wednesday of

Istanbul’s bid for the 2020 Olympics, stressing that the city’s

multi-billion-dollar infrastructure budget will be spent whether or

not Turkey gets the games.

Wrapping up a four-day tour to assess Istanbul’s fifth bid for

the Olympics, IOC Vice President Craig Reedie said his evaluation

panel was impressed by the strong government and business

support.

Istanbul is competing against Madrid and Tokyo. The IOC panel

has already visited those two cities. The full International

Olympic Committee will choose the 2020 host city by secret ballot

on Sept. 7 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

After four previous failed bids, Istanbul is touting its robust

economy, plans for modern venues and games staged on two continents

to advance its 2020 campaign. Istanbul straddles both Asia and

Europe.

Istanbul’s infrastructure budget of 19.2 billion is by far the

highest of the three bid cities – compared to $1.9 billion for

Madrid and $4.9 billion for Tokyo.

Turkey intends to spend on infrastructure projects to address

Istanbul’s transportation problem, including a third airport and

new rail and road links connecting the city’s European and Asian

sides.

Turkey, which will celebrate the centenary of the creation of

the republic in 2023, says the projects will go ahead even if

Istanbul loses its bid

”This is what the city estimates it will spend … at the time

of the games,” IOC executive director Gilbert Felli said. ”The

trains, the road, the railway, the development of the new city –

it’s part of what they are going to do anyway for the 2023

anniversary of the country. Even if the games are not coming

here… this will be spent.”

Felli said the visit had provided the panel with a clearer

picture of Turkey’s projects.

”Now we have a much better understanding of the tunnels, the

metro, the buses (and) how people will be moved from one place to

the other,” he said. ”We have a much better understanding of

which projects have already started.”

Reedie said the IOC witnessed the ”strong support” from the

Turkish government as well as from Turkey’s business community,

which has already pledged $20 million in sponsorship.

A public opinion poll conducted by the IOC showed Istanbul’s bid

has the support of 83 percent of city residents and 76 percent of

Turkey’s population.

Turkish Youth and Sports Minister Suat Kilic said the bid has

the government’s full support and the country pledged ”to deliver

on its promises.”

He dismissed suggestions that Istanbul may present a less safe

bet than its rivals.

”Problems that have occurred in other cities will not be an

issue in Istanbul,” Kilic said. ”We gave that guarantee to the

panel and I am giving it to you now.”

The Istanbul bid committee sounded upbeat.

”My first impression is Turkey and Istanbul did very well,”

bid chairman Hasan Arat told The Associated Press. ”We have

fantastic support from our government, from our president and prime

minister. They are totally behind the bid, giving the guarantees.

That makes Istanbul very strong.”

Next up for the bid cities are presentations in May to an

Olympic conference in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Reedie’s panel will produce a report assessing the three bids

that will be submitted to IOC members ahead of a technical briefing

in July in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Arat said one of Turkey’s deputy prime minister will lead the

delegation to the July meeting, while Prime Minister Recep Tayyip

Erdogan will attend the vote in Buenos Aires.