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Tokyo choice for Olympics ‘unfair’

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan sits with members of the Istanbul bid committee.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan sits with members of the Istanbul bid committee.

The choice of Tokyo instead of Istanbul to host the 2020 Olympic Games was unfair and showed that the International Olympic Committee is ignoring the Muslim world, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying today.

Tokyo beat Istanbul by 60 votes to 36 in a head-to-head vote by IOC members in Buenos Aires on Saturday, giving the Japanese capital the Games for the second time. Madrid had been eliminated in a first round of voting.

Erdogan said that both Japan and Spain had hosted the Games before while Turkey had not.

“It hasn’t been fair,” Erdogan told Turkish media. “In a way, they are cutting ties with the 1.5-billion people Muslim world.”

Civil unrest, the unstable political situation on the country’s doorstep and a wave of high-profile athletics doping cases are seen as the chief reasons for the decision to again overlook Turkey, which has a predominantly Muslim population.

Istanbul also failed in bids to land the 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 Games.

While the unrest in neighbouring Syria was seen by some as counting against the bid, others felt a heavy-handed police crackdown during recent anti-government protests also damaged Turkey’s image.

“Istanbul presented a fantastic bid for the Games and made it through to the very last round,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. “Sadly, as in sport there can only be one winner.”

Tokyo, which hosted the 1964 Games, had an estimated non-Games budget of around $4.4 billion for 2020 plus $3.4 billion for the actual event.

Istanbul’s proposal had a total cost of $19 billion, making it more ambitious but also risky given the country’s lack of experience in staging major sports events.

Another worry for Istanbul has been the wave of doping cases which have resulted in the Turkish Athletics Federation banning dozens of athletes for drugs violations, most recently double European 100m hurdles champion Nevin Yanit.

Turkey’s Sports Minister Suat Kilic said doping was not an issue peculiar to Turkey and Erdogan confirmed the country was taking steps to fight it.

“We have said ‘zero tolerance against doping’ and have started our work,” Erdogan said. (Reuters)

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