By Jonathan Rest
Hasan Arat, chairman of Istanbul's bid to host the Olympic Games in 2020, today played down suggestions that the radical proposal to play soccer's Euro 2020 European Championships in up to 13 cities across the continent, rather than in one or two host countries, had boosted the city's hopes.
Istanbul is competing against Madrid and Tokyo for the right to stage the 2020 Olympics, but its bid had been compromised by the Turkish Football Federation's designs on hosting the European Championships in the same year, having narrowly lost out to France for Euro 2016.
That hurdle was apparently overcome yesterday when the executive committee of Uefa, European soccer's governing body, agreed in principle to support the multi-country Euro 2020 plan of its president Michel Platini.
Only one national assocation, that of Turkey, opposed Uefa's decision.
Although no bids had officially been lodged to host Euro 2020, there had been expressions of interest received by Uefa, and Turkey's had been by the far the most compelling, and indeed was publicly backed by Platini. Joint bids from Georgia and Azerbaijan and a Scotland, Wales and Ireland 'Celtic' proposal had also been mooted.
Asked whether the Uefa proposal had boosted Istanbul's Olympics bid, Arat was quick to play down the claim, telling Sportcal: "We knew for some time that this would be the case. I cannot say that it has had an impact on our bid. We have always had strong support from the Turkish government to bring the Olympic Games to Istanbul. There was not that support for the European Championships, so it was never seen as an issue for us."
However, some delegates attending the European Olympic Committees general meeting here in Rome argued that Uefa's proposal has put Istanbul in the driving seat for the Olympic Games.
One EOC executive board member told Sportcal: "I think this decision [by Uefa] will help Istanbul hugely. It has a strong story already, but until the Euro 2020 format was sorted once and for all, you could understand the IOC [International Olympic Committee] apprehension. This has removed the elephant from the room."
Another national Olympic committee president added: "The IOC report into Istanbul had highlighted the concern of a parallel Euros bid. I think with that now out of the question, their bid has gone up a level."
The official was alluding to an IOC working group report that was published after Istanbul was shortlisted as a 2020 candidate city at the SportAccord Convention in Quebec City, Canada in May.
IOC president Jacques Rogge had already indicated that Istanbul would not be able to hold the Olympics if Turkey had the European Championships, and the report warned: "The working group feels that for a city to organise two major sports events in the same year, and within a period of three months, presents significant risks."
The IOC will award the 2020 Olympic Games at its session in Buenos Aires on September 7, 2013.