Skip to content

Istanbul’s chances of hosting 2020 Olympics

Sep 4, 2013, 1:49 PM EDT

Istanbul 2020 Reuters

The International Olympic Committee will make the first of three major votes at its session in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Saturday.

Nearly 100 IOC members will choose the host city of the 2020 Olympics — Istanbul, Madrid or Tokyo — via secret ballot beginning at 2:45 p.m. Eastern Time with the winner scheduled to be announced between 4 and 4:30. For more on what happens Saturday, click here.

OlympicTalk will look at the chances each city has of winning the vote. Here is a rundown of Istanbul:

Turkey’s largest city (population 13 million) was the trendy pick to host the 2020 Olympics by reporters in 2013 prediction columns nine months ago. The bridge between Europe and Asia wasn’t as steady as Madrid or Tokyo, but its economy and sporting desire were growing together, hosting major events in golf, soccer, swimming and tennis. Its slogan has long been “Bridge Together,” with the phrase “History in the Making” becoming its theme in the final days.

The last few months have not been kind to Istanbul’s prospects. More than two million people participated in anti-government protests in Turkey in June. Five were killed and more than 8,000 injured, according to reports. Tear gas and rubber bullets were used by authorities. Thousands gathered in Istanbul’s Taksim Square and other areas calling for the resignation of the prime minister, who will reportedly fly to Buenos Aires to help pitch Istanbul 2020.

Then one of the largest doping scandals in sports history enveloped the country, especially its track and field program that includes Olympic medalists. In August, Turkey’s track and field federation suspended 31 athletes for two years. Granted, one could argue that’s a positive for Turkey, that the nation is catching cheats with seven years to clean it up altogether.

“The fact that so many doping tests are being conducted and athletes are being exposed is having a positive impact on the Olympic world. It is a show of Turkey’s determination to stamp out doping and its determination to clean up sports,” Istanbul 2020 bid leader Hasan Arat said, according to The Associated Press. “We are determined to go into the 2020 Games with clean athletes. This is a zero-tolerance (for doping) step and Turkey will not make any concessions on the issue.”

The current civil war in Syria, which borders Turkey to the south, is not helping, either.

Istanbul 2020’s promotional video

So, how does Istanbul stack up? The AP described its status as “slipping.”

Robert Livingstone is the producer of GamesBids.com, a website dedicated to handicapping Olympic bid cities since 1998. He said that, despite Istanbul’s noted question marks, much can change in seven years between the vote and the actual staging of the Games.

The IOC has never awarded the Games to a predominantly Muslim country, which could work in Istanbul’s favor given the 2016 Olympics were awarded to Rio de Janeiro, marking the first Games held in South America.

“The Olympic movement can open the door to a new culture,” Arat, a former pro basketball player, told Agence France-Press. “It can bridge Olympic culture to new culture. A new bridge to historical impact, with 8,000 years of history the Olympic movement is not just giving the Olympic Games to a city — they (the IOC) would be giving hope, trust and peace to a region.”

Istanbul would globalize the Olympics more than Madrid or Tokyo, whose nations hosted previous Olympics.

“There’s no doubt (Istanbul) could get the job done from an infrastructure and organizational perspective,” Livingstone said. “They have to sell the IOC that it’s a good place to go.”

Istanbul didn’t come close to convincing the IOC on four previous occasions — 2000 (fifth place among five finalists), 2004 (didn’t make final cut of five cities), 2008 (fourth of five) and 2012 (didn’t make final cut of five cities).

“This is their best chance ever,” Livingstone said. “Time has passed, and they’ve made all those improvements. They moved from a developing nation to a developed nation. The way these votes go, they definitely have a chance. Nobody’s ruled out.”

GamesBids.com rated Istanbul a close second to Tokyo in its most recent predictions. The gap between Istanbul and third-place Madrid is more than three times the gap between Tokyo and Istanbul, according to GamesBids’ formula.

Livingstone, covering his fourth IOC bid city session this week, said he thought the vote will go like this: Madrid will advance through the first round with a strong contingent of voters with either Istanbul or Tokyo eliminated. From there, the voters of the eliminated city could pool with the one still alive, potentially overtaking Madrid.

“Istanbul’s in the race, but it’s a tricky one to handicap,” Livingstone said. “It’s going to be pretty tight.”

Key information for IOC session in Buenos Aires

Latest Posts
  1. Bicycle fall takes swimmer Kosuke Hagino out of Worlds

    Jul 4, 2015, 9:11 AM EDT

    Kosuke Hagino Kosuke Hagino

    The Japanese swimmer confirmed that his right elbow is fractured.

  2. Nick Lucena and Theo Brunner final American team in Beach Volleyball World Championships

    Jul 3, 2015, 5:13 PM EDT

    AVP Championships at Huntington Beach AVP Championships at Huntington Beach

    Three of the four remaining American teams were knocked out in the quarterfinal rounds. Lucena and Brunner will face the Brazilians in semifinals on Saturday.

  3. Jordan Burroughs on Rio: ‘My chances of winning’ are better than in London

    Jul 3, 2015, 2:13 PM EDT

    US' Jordan Ernest Burroughs celebrates a US' Jordan Ernest Burroughs celebrates a

    In an interview before the July 4th stop of the Road to Rio tour before Philadelphia, the Olympic wrestler explained how his age has become an advantage.

  4. Rio 2016 Olympic torch unveiled

    Jul 3, 2015, 12:26 PM EDT

    Screen shot 2015-07-03 at 11.35.56 AM

    The torch will begin in the capital city of Brasilia, passing through a planned 500 cities before reaching Maracana Stadium in Rio for the Opening Ceremony.

  5. Allyson Felix considering 200-400m double at Worlds

    Jul 3, 2015, 11:11 AM EDT

    Allyson Felix Allyson Felix

    Won’t face Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who will forgo 200 meters to focus on 100.

  6. Japanese swim star Kosuke Hagino potentially out of World Championships

    Jul 2, 2015, 11:29 AM EDT

    Comments Off on Japanese swim star Kosuke Hagino potentially out of World Championships
    Japan's Kosuke Hagino competes in the me Japan's Kosuke Hagino competes in the me

    A suspected elbow fracture may force Hagino to pull out.

  7. Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross historically dominant at World Championships

    Jul 1, 2015, 10:07 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Walsh Jennings had never been part of such a rout with Misty May-Treanor.

  8. USOC eyes majority support for Boston 2024 ‘relatively soon’

    Jun 30, 2015, 7:33 PM EDT

    Boston 2024

    “We’re not discussing right now the possibility of not submitting a bid.”

  9. Usain Bolt pulls out of July track meets

    Jun 30, 2015, 2:37 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Bolt flew to Munich to treat an injury.

  10. Brazil’s president offers Barack Obama ‘standing invitation’ to Rio Olympics

    Jun 30, 2015, 2:25 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Obama has never attended an Olympics as president, and this is his last chance.

  11. Simon Shnapir retires from figure skating

    Jun 30, 2015, 2:08 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Shnapir won Olympic bronze in Sochi.

  12. Missy Franklin named top NCAA female athlete

    Jun 30, 2015, 10:37 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Franklin beat out another Rio 2016 Olympic hopeful for the honor.

  13. Cristiano Ronaldo ‘a possibility’ for Rio 2016 Olympics

    Jun 30, 2015, 9:19 AM EDT

    Cristiano Ronaldo Getty Images

    Ronaldo debuted at the Olympics two years before his first World Cup.

  14. Angela Ruggiero to become fourth women’s player in Hockey Hall of Fame

    Jun 30, 2015, 8:59 AM EDT

    AP AP

    The 2015 Hall of Fame class also includes four men’s Olympic medalists.

  15. Michael Phelps’ career in photos on his 30th birthday

    Jun 30, 2015, 8:10 AM EDT

    Michael Phelps

    Most decorated Olympian of all time turned 30 on Tuesday.

  16. Michael Phelps’ potential record chases at Rio Olympics

    Jun 30, 2015, 7:50 AM EDT

    Michael Phelps AP

    Phelps still trails a legendary gymnast, U.S. track and field champions and one of his 2004 Olympic swimming teammates.

  17. Five takeaways from U.S. Track and Field Championships

    Jun 29, 2015, 2:45 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    The U.S. appears headed for a historically strong World Championships medal haul.