IN IT TO WIN IT

Turkey 2013 | TOURISM | FOCUS: 2020 OLYMPICS BID

Turkey's fifth Olympic bid is its strongest yet, and its people are confident that the country will be ready well before 2020.

With just 18 months to prepare, the Turkish city of Mersin was ready to host the 17th Mediterranean Games held June 20-30, 2013. The successful hosting of this international event and the enthusiasm about generating infrastructure, the appropriate marketing, and thewidespread availability of accommodation adds to increasing evidence that Turkey is ready to host the largest international sporting event of them all: the Summer Olympic Games.

With Istanbul placing its fifth consecutive bid for the Olympics, excitement is building for the coming decision about the location of the 2020 edition. The authorities have focused on garnering public support, establishing new and appropriate infrastructure, and aligning the potential event with the country's overall Vision 2023.

According to a 2013 domestic poll, 94% of respondents in Istanbul are in favor of hosting the Games, and 23 million Turkish sports fans have already expressed a desire to purchase tickets to the Summer Olympics 2020. Meanwhile, the city has spent approximately $1.5billion on transport infrastructure annually since 2005. “By 2018, another $10 billion will have been spent on a series of groundbreaking projects," Hasan Arat, Chairman of the Istanbul 2020 Bid Committee, explained to TBY. “The third Bosphorus Bridge, the Haliç Metro, the Eurasia-Bosphorus road tunnel, the Marmaray rail tunnel, and a third international airport will all have made Istanbul better connected well before 2020." The government is also planning to build 20 new world-class venues in the country over the coming years. In addition, an Olympic Village has been designed to ensure that athletes will experience a travel time of no more than 16 minutes from their accommodation to the venues. Furthermore, 51% of the participants will be staying just five minutes from their competition arenas. “Our team of national sponsors has contributed $20 million to the campaign, the largest private sector investment in any sports bid in Turkey's history," Arat concluded.

Despite extensive planning and efforts stronger than ever before, the other contenders for the bid also boast experience. Although Baku and Doha have dropped out of the race, Madrid and Tokyo will prove challenging to beat when the host city is decided on September 7, 2013. Both cities have hosted numerous international events and multiple editions of the Olympics in summer and winter. Meanwhile, Istanbul was the European Capital of Sports in 2012, when it hosted 12 major international sporting competitions.

Nevertheless, Turkey's fifth Olympic bid represents the most powerful partnership between the sports and business community, as well as every level of government the country has ever seen. In terms of the private sector, the bid's sponsors are optimistic. Koç Holding, which owns five brands in Turkey's top 10 and is listed on the Fortune 500 list, and Turkcell, the only Turkish company listed on the NYSE, both support the bid. With solid financial resources behind the bid, these companies are also bringing a wealth of experience and specialist expertise in the areas of marketing, sponsorship, construction, and finance.

In addition to public support and boosted infrastructure, Istanbul has several major events as evidence of success backing its bid. The city expertly hosted the 2005 UEFA Champions League Final, the 2009 UEFA Cup Final, the 2010 FIBA Men's World Championship, the Euroleague 2011-2012 Final Four for basketball, the WTA Tour Championships in tennis, the 2012 FINA World Swimming Championships, and the 2012 IAAF World Indoor Championships in athletics. Istanbul also hosted several games for the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup and is currently planning the 2014 FIBA Women's World Championship.

Turkey's first experience at the Summer Olympics was in 1908 in London. Its most successful year was 1948, when Turkish athletes brought home 12 medals, including six gold. Turkey has historically performed well in the areas of wrestling, weightlifting, boxing, and taekwondo. If given the honor of hosting the Games in 2020, Istanbul will bring the Olympics to a new region of the world and foster interest in sports among a population that has a young demographic suited for athleticism and eager to show off its skills.