GO FOR THE GOLD

Turkey 2013 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Suat Kılıç, Minister of Youth & Sports, on the importance of the Olympic bid for Turkish society and the legacy of hosting international tournaments.

Suat Kılıç
BIOGRAPHY
Suat Kılıç, Minister of Youth and Sports, graduated from the Law Faculty of Ankara University. He has worked as a producer, speaker, news director, and editor for Radio Dünya, Kanal 7, NTV, and Kanal D. He entered the Parliament as Deputy for Samsun in November 2002, was appointed as a Secretary Member of the National Assembly Presidency Council, and also served as Vice-Chairman of Publicity and Media of the AK Party. He was elected a member of parliament for the second time in July 2007, when he served as Vice-Chairman of Publicity and Media for the AK Party. He was assigned to be Vice-President of the AK Party Group in 2009 and was appointed as the Minister of Youth and Sports of the 61st government cabinet on July 6, 2011.

How will the government's planned infrastructure investments enhance the city's ability to play host to the Olympics in 2020?

The city has spent an average of $1.5 billion on transport upgrades every year since 2005. At the end of May 2013, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and President Abdullah Gül broke the ground for the third bridge that will cross the Bosphorus Strait. The third bridge, which is due to be completed in 2016, will be the longest combined road and railway bridge in the world, with a daily capacity of 270,000 cars. Currently, 1.4 million people use rail networks in Istanbul, but this is set to increase to 7 million by 2018. The Marmaray Rail Tunnel, running beneath the Bosphorus, is scheduled for inauguration on October 29, 2013, which is Turkey's Republic Day. The line will carry 75,000 passengers per hour in each direction at peak times. The Eurasia Bosphorus Road Tunnel will run beneath the Bosphorus and connect the European and Asian sides of the city. A record-breaking €22.15 billion tender, the largest in the history of the Turkish Republic, has been completed for Istanbul's third airport. The airport will have an initial annual passenger capacity of 90 million people and is scheduled for completion by 2017. When complete, it will be among the largest airports in the world.

Turkey has hosted a number of other major international sporting events. How has this helped the city to develop its sports facilities?

Istanbul has forged a reputation as one of the world's leading hosts of sporting events by hosting over 40 major events in the last seven years. In 2012 alone, Istanbul hosted 12 major international sport competitions, including the IAAF World Indoor Championships, the WTA Tour Championships, and the FINA World Swimming Championships. In June and July 2013, Turkey has hosted the 17th Mediterranean Games and the FIFA U-20 World Cup. Hosting these events has helped develop a strong pool of expertise in Turkey. This was clearly demonstrated by preparations for the 17th Mediterranean Games. Under normal circumstances, countries are awarded the Games six years before the event, but Mersin stepped in 18 months ago, after Volos in Greece dropped out due to financial reasons. We successfully completed all preparations in time for the Games. The new venues were constructed by TOKİ, the same agency that will be responsible for delivering all of the Istanbul 2020 venues.

Regardless of the outcome, what effect do you expect that the Olympic bid will have on involvement in sports and local infrastructure development in the long term?

Istanbul's candidature concept is aligned perfectly with Vision 2023, which includes the 100th Anniversary targets of our Republic, a secular and democratic state. The government is fully committed to engaging Turkey's young population with sports and increasing sports participation throughout the country, independent of being awarded the Olympics. The National Sports Plan provides for a government investment of $500 million annually in sports participation and development programs, and this is supplemented by an additional $2.5 billion government investment. In total, 25 new stadiums and 725 sports facilities will be completed by 2014, for both elite and community sports in Turkey.

“Istanbul's candidature concept is aligned perfectly with Vision 2023."

What are the government's priorities for sports and youth looking forward into 2013?

Generally, we will be looking to engage Turkey's 31 million young people less than 25 years of age and increase the number that participate in sports. This will be achieved through the National Sports Plan and the huge investment in sports participation and development programs. We want to broaden the sports spectrum in Turkey, so our Olympians and Paralympians can start winning medals in a wider range of events. We have a young population and more than 500,000 students graduate from university every year. Our responsibility is to help them plan their future and ensure opportunities. Our Olympic candidature combines young people with the vision of a younger and more powerful Turkey, and it will hold the new generation together, motivate them, and activate their abilities as the well-known Olympic motto says: faster, higher, and stronger.