The most distinguished prize in the world of sports business will be awarded at the 125th Meeting of the International Olympic Committee in Buenos Aires next month. Three great cities are competing for the honor to host the Summer Olympic Games in 2020. Madrid and Tokyo, competitors for 2016 Summer Games bid, lost to Rio de Janeiro and have resolved to try again with more ambitious plans for the 2020 Games. This time, the historic crossroads city Istanbul is also joining the competition.
Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey. The country’s annual economic growth rate of 5% in the past decade surpassed most other nations. This momentum and a youthful, growing population are making 2020 bid planners confident that Istanbul can excel at combining infrastructure upgrades with new construction to create a spectacular constellation of sports venues and event facilities.
The Istanbul 2020 master plan spotlights the historic landmarks of this port city linking Europe with Asia. The plan envisions major redevelopment of the current cargo port area for new construction of an Olympic athlete’s village and multiple sports complexes. The legacy plan envisions converting the permanent facilities into an arts and culture center. Temporary sports venues will float in the adjacent harbor. These will then be shipped (literally) to other areas after the Games to support expanding youth sports programs.
The planned waterside setting looks ideal for rowing, canoe and kayak competitions. The planned facilities on a floating artificial island on the Bosphorus Straits will dazzle television spectators. Sailing events will make use of the existing marina, considered to be one of the most beautiful in the world.
Extensive construction of new facilities is planned for Belgrade Forest on the western edge of Istanbul. This greenbelt area’s terrain features an appealing natural setting for outdoor adventure sports like BMX cycling and whitewater kayaking.
While Istanbul 2020 organizers impressed the many influential opinion makers who interact with the International Olympic Committee with their communications program at the 2013 World Aquatic Championships in Barcelona, the online communications program may not be enough to gain all the support needed to triumph over Madrid and Tokyo. The official website is almost entirely in Turkish and almost no communications material have been produced in French, the official language of many international sports federations.
The complete master plan for the first ever Olympic games in Istanbul aims to be a symbol linking Europe with Asia. In a fitting tribute, the concluding marathon will bridge the two continents. Soon we will know if the time is right for this concept when the International Olympic Committee votes September 7 in Buenos Aires.