By Jonathan Rest in Istanbul
The International Olympic Committee evaluation commission for the 2020 Olympic Games said today it is not concerned that Istanbul's planned huge budget for the event dwarfs that of rival bidders for the games at the same time that it is stressing the need for financial common sense.
Istanbul’s budget for the games is $19.2 billion - of which around 50 per cent is for transport-related projects - compared with $4.9 billion from Tokyo and $1.9 billion from Madrid.
However Gilbert Felli, the IOC's Olympic Games executive director, claimed it had been made clear to the 14-member evaluation commission, which concluded its inspection of Istanbul today, that the presented budget was part of a wider plan for the city.
Felli said: “There are two budgets, one fixed for games and one for infrastructure... This [$19.2 billion] is what the city estimates it will have to spend to achieve what they need by the time of the games. Everything they want to do, with trains, roads and development of a new city is part of what they are going to do anyway with 2023, the centenary of Turkey, mainly a target for them.
“This is very important to understand; even if the games don’t come here most of the projects will still get done. We don’t believe it is something [infrastructure budget] due only to the Olympic Games.”
Sir Craig Reedie, chairman of the IOC evaluation commission, said last week in Madrid, which has been pushing a low-cost games message, that “the IOC is very well aware that the Olympic Games cannot get more expensive and more expensive and more expensive all the time.”
However, Felli said that the situation in Madrid was different because “they have already spent the necessary money.”
Some of the projects included in Istanbul's games budget are the Marmaray rail tunnel, which will link the European and Asian parts of the city, and a wider metro network. The evaluation commission members this week became the first passengers to travel on a new metro line that ends at Istanbul’s proposed Olympic Park.
Traffic has been the major issue for Istanbul 2020 to address while the evaluation commission has been travelling around, with road congestion a common occurrence in a city of 13 million people.
However, Felli indicated that the commission had been satisfied with the master plan laid down by Istanbul’s transport authorities.
He added: “One of the reasons we come here is to try and understand the project, and we now have a much better understanding of the rail tunnel, the road tunnel, the movement of cars and buses, and how people will be moved from one place to another.
“We have seen it. We understand which projects have already started. We have a better view now. Due to size of infrastructure put in place for an Olympics, if Istanbul gets the games we will monitor it closely. We have monitored the deadlines and we have a clear picture of that.”
Reedie said the Istanbul 2020 bid team had left an “excellent impression” on the evaluation commission, and that the IOC team had “witnessed the strong support” the bid enjoys from the government, as evidenced by the presence of Abdullah Gül, the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the prime minister, and many government ministers at meetings this week.
Hasan Arat, chairman of Istanbul 2020, said that the bid team had been asked a series of “professional and probing questions” by the IOC evaluation commission, and that the four-day visit had been “a fantastic learning experience for us. We are now better equipped than ever to deliver on our promises and vision.”
There continue to be concerns over Rio de Janeiro’s preparations and readiness for the 2016 Olympic Games, as evidenced by today's revelation that the Joao Havelange stadium, which is slated to stage track and field events in 2016, has been closed indefinitely because of structural problems with the roof.
Asked whether such negative stories coming out of Brazil, coupled with the scale of the work needed in Istanbul, could prompt IOC members to vote for what could be perceived as safer options in Madrid and Tokyo, Suat Kılıç, Turkey’s sports minister, said: “Turkey within all this bid process has been undertaking really important guarantees and commitments and we have been striving for these games. We are informed what is happening in organising committees and we are aware. We have worked really meticulously.
“In terms of financing we have taken a really detailed process to honour requirements. As far as we are concerned, no challenges that are experienced by other organising committees will be applicable to Turkey and we have promised that to the IOC.”