ISTANBUL 2020: President pledges a cleaner future for Turkish sport

March 25, 2013

By Keir Radnedge

Turkey’s President has promised that, if Istanbul wins the right to host the 2020 Olympic Games, the country will “even more careful” to combat corruption in sport.

President Abdullah Gul, relaxing in the hunting lodge of the Huber Villa at Tarabya, north of the city, had just told the IOC examiners why the original Constantinople should be top of their Olympic pops.

A proposed $19bn city ‘masterplan’ dwarfs the Games estimates of rivals Tokyo and Madrid and Gul clarified the hows, whys and wherefores of slotting the Olympic scheme into the government’s grand ‘masterplan’.

But while the bid’s technical, commercial, financial and infrastructural aspects are in place, precisely the same can be said of Tokyo and Madrid. All three cities are perfectly capable of hosting the Games.

Headline maker

Hence the trio must also address the less-easily definibles, including the one issue which catches all the headlines all over the world, every day: sport itself which is the core activity at the heart of the Olympics.

Corruption controversies are not limited to any one country and Turkey has suffered two assaults of negativity in the spheres of doping and matchfixing.

Last week it emerged that Cakir Alptekin who won the women’s 1500m gold at London 2012 had failed a blood passport check and now risks a life ban.

As for matchfixing, the fall-out rumbles on from a saga which has exacerbated the already-volatile football rivalries between Trabzonspor and the Istanbul rivals Fenerbache and Galatasaray.

Gul said: “This a theme for all the sports world, it happens in some of the most progressive countries and in every place. It’s something the whole sports community has to be very concerned about.

“When you have some success and then see there has been matchfixing and doping it can be very demoralising.

“We are very severe about this. We take it very seriously . . . a strict new law has been passed and we are very keen to make sure that we follow this through.

“We will have to be even more careful how we deal with this.”

English connections

Gul conceded that politics had kept him too busy to be anything more than an amateur sportsman, apart from “a little wrestling.”

With football in mind it is, perhaps, just as well that Gul considers ‘his club’ to be Besiktas, just like 2020 bid leader Hasan Arat. However, he has been a fan of Liverpool ever since the early 1970s when he was studying in England at Exeter University.

That may prove a happy omen. Who knows?

After all, Istanbul represents a most dramatic victory in the history of Liverpool.

Keir Radnedge has been covering football worldwide for more than 40 years, writing 33 books, from tournament guides to comprehensive encyclopedias, aimed at all ages.

His journalism career included The Daily Mail for 20 years as well as The Guardian and other national newspapers and magazines in the UK and around the world. He is a former editor, and remains a lead columnist, with World Soccer, generally recognised as the premier English language magazine on global football.

In addition to his writing, Keir has been a regular analyst for BBC radio and television, Sky Sports, Sky News, Aljazeera and CNN.

Keir Radnedge’s Twitter: @KeirRadnedge

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