Istanbul 2020 bidders remain confident of support

Associated Press
Young Turks walk during a protest in Ankara, Turkey, Sunday, June 2, 2013. Turkey's prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday rejected claims that he is a "dictator," dismissing protesters as an extremist fringe, even as thousands returned to the landmark Istanbul square that has become the site of the fiercest anti-government outburst in years. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
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ISTANBUL (AP) — Promoters of Istanbul's bid for the 2020 Olympics remain confident the Turkish people are united behind their campaign despite fierce anti-government protests around the country in recent days.

The demonstrations grew out of anger over a violent police crackdown of a peaceful environmental protest at Istanbul's Taksim Square and spread to other Turkish cities. The government said some 1,000 people were detained during the protests. Hundreds were injured in the clashes.

"Despite these recent events, all sections of Turkey remain united in our dream to host our nation's first ever Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020," Istanbul 2020 backers said in a statement Sunday. "The slogan for our Olympic bid is 'Bridge Together' and there is a common desire to unite in the Olympic spirit and show the world that we can work together for a better Turkey."

The bid organizers say they're monitoring the demonstrations in Istanbul "very carefully" and, while they're buoyed by the "positive community spirit in helping to clean up and repair damage," the situation remains fluid.

Istanbul is vying with Madrid and Tokyo for the 2020 Summer Games, with the International Olympic Committee set to select the host city in a vote in September.

Denis Oswald, a candidate to succeed IOC President Jacques Rogge in September, said Monday that the protests shouldn't threaten the bid — at least for now.

"It's a beginning of a protest that can happen in any democratic country," the Swiss IOC member and international rowing federation chief said. "For the time being we'll see how it develops, how important this protest is. We have had that in many countries where we had Olympic Games.

"I don't think it would necessarily affect the candidature. We are still three months away from the decision. It will depend if this continues and develops, but for the time being I don't think it's a real threat for the candidature."

All three bid teams made presentations to the SportAccord conference in St. Petersburg, Russia, last week — each claiming to be the safest and most financially secure choice.

Istanbul is bidding for the fifth time.

"In the past, Turkey bid for the games as an emerging nation," Istanbul bid leader Hasan Arat told the conference last week. "This time, Turkey is bidding as an emerged nation."

The IOC evaluation commission will issue a report on June 25 assessing the three bids and the candidate cities will make presentations directly to IOC members in Lausanne, Switzerland, on July 3.

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