Legacy Case Study: Istanbul

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Istanbul's 2012 Olympic bid marked the fourth attempt by Turkey's largest city to stage the Summer Games, after losing out in 2000 to Sydney, in 2004 to Athens, and in 2008 to Beijing. The Turkish persistence results from a unique law introduced by the Turkish parliament in 1992, whereby the country was compelled to prepare Istanbul for the staging of the Olympics in order to release funds into sport.

The law states that Istanbul shall bid for the Olympic Games until it is successful. As a result, Istanbul, which was a shortlisted candidate for the 2008 event, had already spent a reported $240m building the necessary sporting infrastructures to host the historic competition. The core of the project was the 80, 000–capacity Olympic Stadium, situated 30 minutes to the west of the city, which was completed in 2002 at a cost of only $120m. Istanbul authorities also intend to spend $10bn on improving transport in the city over the next 10 years. Despite Istanbul's " bid until we win" Olympic law, the Turkish city refrained from bidding for the 2016 Olympic Games. However, " Istanbul will apply for hosting the 2020 Olympic Games with renewed vigour. Until then, it will concentrate on providing conclusive evidence of its infrastructure, of its human and organisational capacity to fulfil its share of the Olympic mission, " said Togay Bayatly, president of the Turkish Olympic Committee. "When we bid for the 2000 Olympic Games in 1993, we only received seven votes, " added Yalcin Aksoy, general director of the Istanbul Olympic Bidding Committee. "We then visited each and every IOC member and categorised their reasons for not voting for us. The results fell into three areas. One group thought we weren't really serious and just wanted the PR benefits from the bid. The second group felt we didn't have enough venues and couldn't build them in time. The third group were concerned at our general lack of infrastructure at the time. Those are all areas we have addressed or are addressing. "Aksoy continued: " When Istanbul was chosen as a Candidate City [in 2008], we were in a national economic crisis. We were surprised we didn't make the short–list again for 2012 because four years later there was no trace of a crisis. When they chose not to short–list us, we already had the Olympic stadium built. The accommodation infrastructure was better by 20%. Istanbul was a better city than when it was short–listed. " According to Aksoy, bidding for and hosting sports events has changed the whole culture of the Turkish people. "We have a young population with 14m having an average age of 26 years. Many are also below the age of 14 years and we haven't previously been able to educate them about sport. However, bidding for the Olympics has given them focus and raised the profile of sport in our country. Obviously there have been economic benefits too and infrastructure benefits. For example, we are the only city that has an Olympic Stadium but hasn't hosted an Olympics. When we first bid for the Olympics we only had one suitable venue–now we have 13. "Istanbul has a two–fold motivation for hosting the Olympic Games, according to Aksoy. One is the desire to benefit from the exceptionally enriching experience of hosting the Games. The other is the impelling drive to inspire a more profound conception of Olympism as a universal value. "Hosting the Olympic Games will have a positive impact on the city and the country if only for reasons of development, outlined in terms of human resources, sport and urban infrastructure. The Olympic legacy will be particularly significant in its social implications, " he said. "Istanbul's Olympic project has a strongly social character. It aims at responding to specific social needs of the city and the country with the same technical rigour and code of conduct that must be ensured in Games organisation. Hosting the Games will therefore provide an excellent context within which to implement specific social programmes. Essentially educational, these programmes include educating the youth through sport and raising sustainability–oriented civic consciousness as primary components, " he continued. Educating youth through sports and providing an enhanced sports infrastructure to sustain the spreading of sports culture is set to be a very significant legacy of the Olympic Games in social terms. Equally strong in social terms will be the environmental legacy of the Games. This will derive both from the large scale development projects showcasing environmental sustainability and from city–wide awareness–raising programmes to support such projects in the long–term. Istanbul's aims are undoubtedly high continued Aksoy. " We have a vision. We also know that every vision must have an underpinning of realism, if it is ever to be achieved. Istanbul possesses the conceptual and material elements of success. This is neither optimism nor over confidence. It is a realistic assessment of conditions that exist in Istanbul. Tell someone that there are 400bn stars out there and the person will believe you. Tell him that a bench has wet paint and the person has to touch it, just to make sure you are right. The paint is wet and all we want is for the IOC to touch it. ","43

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