Istanbul Olympic bidding boss looks to winning

Updated: 2013-08-16 21:39


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Vying for the country's first-ever Olympics after four consecutive losses, Istanbul has never thought they are less competitive. Instead, they are more determined to win the bid.

Embracing the heat wave in the East China's city of Nanjing, Hasan Arat, chairman of the Istanbul 2020 Bid Committee and the vice-president of the Turkish National Olympic Committee, said his country and its people are as hot-hearted as the weather to this bid as the country needs the Olympics as an opportunity to change.

Istanbul Olympic bidding boss looks to winning
Hasan Arat, chairman of the Istanbul 2020 Bid Committee and the vice-president of the Turkish National Olympic Committee 

"China had the experience in 2008. You can see how the Olympics changed your mindset…that is important to Istanbul, too, and that is why we are more passionate than ever for the Olympics," said Arat, who was attending the opening ceremony of the 2nd Asian Youth Games in the city.

The bidding head believed it will be a turning point both for Turkey and the Olympic family if Istanbul is chosen. "We need the Olympics and the Olympics need us, too. The Olympics will have many ‘firsts' if it will be Istanbul," he said. "It will be in a new country and region with a majority of Muslims and new culture."

The last 30 site selections for the Olympics have landed cities from 18 countries all over the world, with 11 in west and north European cities(the former Soviet Union included), three in North America and Mexico, three in Asia and one in Australia.

In comparisons with the other two candidate cities, Madrid and Tokyo, the clear message Istanbul wants to convey to make itself stand out is its geographical magic, because the city uniquely straddles two continents. "You compete on the Asian side but rest on the European side. This never happens before…"

Economically, the country has experienced enormous growth with a three-fold GDP rise compared with the time of its first bid 20 years ago, for the 2000 Games. "The 2020 (GDP) expectation will be $2 trillion. We are totally different from the first bid."

"We are investing every year $1.5 billion on infrastructure," he said. "In 1992, we had no metro lines but by 2020 we will serve half of the population with public transportation."

Cheering for the Asian Youth Games in Nanjing just three weeks before the voting in September, Arat said he wants to send a strong message to the world that his country is the catalyst for a huge rise in mass sport participation, particularly among young people under the age of 25, representing half of the nation's half population.

"We are a young country…The Olympics will provide our young people with opportunities across the sports sector, and they will pass on the Olympic baton…We can see China created a lot of role models from the Olympics, and we want role models to inspire our youth, too."

Turkey's campaign to mobilize more young people into sport is epitomized by the National Sports Plan: a wide-ranging, transformative government program that provides for an investment of $500 million annually in sports participation and development through low- or no-cost activities. This is being complemented by a $1.77 billion government investment that will deliver 415 accessible, high-quality communities and elite-level sports facilities and 24 new stadiums across Turkey by 2014.

"Choosing Turkey means choosing sports-for-all", Arat said. "I met many young volunteers saying ‘hello' to us in beautiful Englishhere in Nanjingand I hope this will happen in my country in 2020."

But concerns have been raised over possible security fallout from the neighboringSyrian conflict and recentdopingscandals that may cast a shadow over the bidding.

"Those are not the fundamental issues, but short-term issues", Arat said, "We are pushing hard with the doping issues…if you test, you get the results, if you don't test, you don't get the results…and all host cities have their issues. It is normal."

"TheBeijingGames was a miracle. You created a model and left a great legacy." Arat said he has had a special personal attachment to China since he met then Chinese vice-presidentXi Jinpingduring Xi's visit in Ankara. He presented the Chinese leader a basketball uniform in 2012.

Serving as an executive board member of the Turkish Tourism Investors Association, the athlete-turned businessman said he believes more and more Chinese people will visit Turkey as the two countries share a pride in cultures that go back thousands of years.

A former high-profile basketball player himself, Arat said there is so much more responsibility in bidding than in playing a game. "There are so many stories…I may write a book about the bidding."

"Losing? We are concentrating on winning. We are looking to win."

Biography of Hasan Arat

Chairman, Istanbul 2020 Bid Committee

Hasan Arat is the Chairman of the Istanbul 2020 Bid Committee and the Vice President of the Turkish National Olympic Committee. His sporting background includes a professional basketball careerat BJK (Besiktas Gymnastic Club), as well as being BJK's former Vice President and the former Vice President of the Turkish Basketball Federation. He is the Chairman of the Executive Board of Capital Partners, a leading real estate developer operating in Turkey, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Russia, and is a board member of the Fiba Group, which invests in financial services industries. Arat is also a board member of the Acibadem Health Group and a member of the Board of Trustees of Acibadem University. Hasan Arat was awarded the title of "Businessman of the Year" in 1996 by Economist Magazine, the National Productivity Centre of Turkey and Dunya

Newspaper. Hasan Arat is the Vice President of the Affiliate Members of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNTWO) and an Executive Board member of the Turkish Tourism Investors Association (TYD). He is the Vice President of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey and of the Foreign Economic Relations Board concerning Turkish-Russian Business. Hasan Arat is married to Simin Arat, a former national swimmer. Together they have two children: Zeynep, a nationalvolleyballplayer, and Ali, who also represents Turkey in water polo.