Head of Istanbul's Olympic bid wants wrestling in 2020 Games
LONDON (AP) -- The head of Istanbul's bid for the 2020 Olympics hopes a winning vote coincides with wrestling's reinstatement.
The International Olympic Committee executive board voted this month to drop wrestling from 2020, but the final decision will be made at the assembly in September in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
That is when Istanbul will be challenging Madrid and Tokyo for the right to stage the games in seven years.
"If we are awarded the games, Turkey wants to have wrestling events in Istanbul," Istanbul bid leader Hasan Arat said Tuesday at a media roundtable in London.
One of Turkey's five medals at the London Games came in wrestling - a bronze - while the country's only gold at the 2008 Beijing Games came in the sport, which was included in the ancient Olympics staged near Turkey's present-day territory.
Wrestling was caught off guard by the IOC executive board decision, and will now have to compete with seven other sports for a spot on the 2020 program: baseball and softball, squash, wakeboarding, sport climbing, roller sports and the martial arts of karate and wushu.
Wrestling leaders have acknowledged that the sport needs to introduce more user-friendly rules that would benefit spectators, television and athletes alike.
"There is a big responsibility for the international wrestling federation to really make their presentation, to make them really understand the position of this sport in those countries, like the United States, like Russia, like Japan, like Uzbekistan, like Turkey, like Azerbaijan," Arat said. "These countries are very sensitive about wrestling. I hope the wrestling federation will do their best to make their presentation. ... They have to lobby, that's very normal."
Arat is preparing for the visit to Istanbul by the IOC evaluation commission from March 24-27. The commission will be in Tokyo next week.
The proposed budget for Istanbul's fifth bid to host the Olympics is $19.2 billion for infrastructure and public services, much higher than the $4.9 billion of Tokyo and $1.9 billion of Madrid.
When Istanbul bid previously, Arat said, "Turkey was an emerging country." Now, he stressed, "Turkey has emerged."
Arat highlighted the investment in infrastructure, including $1.2 billion since 2005 to improve transportation in Istanbul, which has been known for its gridlocked roads.
But the bid leaders will have to convince Olympic members that Turkey is taking strong action to protect the integrity of sports in a country where soccer has had match-fixing problems. In 2012, 93 people went on trial in Turkey for match-fixing, including 14 players.
"There is zero tolerance now, it's very strict rules," Arat said. "You cannot change the things in one day, you have to prove it. For us, we believe the Olympic movement also will bring us a lot of values."
Arat hopes a successful bid would help to speed up slow-moving talks with the European Union about Turkey joining the 27-member bloc.
Turkey began EU accession negotiations in 2005, but has made little progress since then because of a dispute with EU-member Cyprus and resistance by some in Europe to admitting a populous Muslim nation into the bloc.
"It will help first of all for the futures of our people, the future of our children to understand more about integration to the world," Arat said. "Turkey is working hard to fulfill their obligations concerning the participation in the EU and I think Turkey is doing very well."