Turkey’s Latest Struggle with the International Community: the 2020 Olympics

There has been much controversy about the possibility of the 2020 Olympic Games happening in İstanbul. However, I would not like to attribute the negative result in the final selection to certain events people like to talk about. I would rather talk about why “actually” the Olympic Committee did not think İstanbul was a suitable place for Olympics.

First of all, İstanbul is unfortunately “not” the greatest city in the world as some of us think. In fact, I was satisfied with Topbaş’s administration until recently, but this does not change the fact that İstanbul still has transportation problems, mass-housing chaos, destruction of natural landscape and public “resting” places like some parks, some coasts, etc. I am not familiar with the “actual” details of the administration before Erdoğan, as I did not experience it directly, but to me, Topbaş is doing better than Erdoğan, and despite Erdoğan’s sword constantly near İstanbul’s throat from the top. Still, this does not change the fact that İstanbul is “not” the greatest city in the world. İstanbul is great, but not in balance. Anyone who has seen a “single” average European city would agree with me. In fact, I have seen a few European cities, and the worst one I have seen deserved the Olympics more than İstanbul. Of course, this is my opinion.

Another thing about the reason is not the Gezi protests, or it is not about that Erdoğan shows autocratic tendencies and treats his fellow countrymen anti-democratically. If Olympic decisions were about democracy, China would not get the Olympics. Those decisions are all about political stability – even in some anti-democratic way –, economic stability, and the spirit of sports. Gezi events are taken into consideration by the international community in terms of politics, media or public opinion. On the other hand, technically, Gezi protests are not seen as a potential for stability problems and widely regarded as a low wave of opinions. The movements changed some things, and will continue to change the current political understanding among the public, and for the way “political opposition” is practiced in Turkey, but they are not on the level of “political emergency”, or they do not possess the raw power that might lead to a revolution or even a reform to a more democratic and human rights based political system. If only they did – not for a revolution, but for a reform –, but this is another issue.

I am really sorry for making you wait for my final opinion about the Olympics, here it comes. If you pardon my French, Turkey’s economy “sucks”, literally. By “literally”, I mean social security policies, taxation policies and consistent inflation. Yes, inflation, and by inflation, I mean, the real one we face. While every important and costly price we face increases by 30 or 40 percent, that our inflation is shown in one digit also can be linked to a false-report trend in our economy. Yes, like Mehmet Şimşek’s statements about Turkey’s three-fold growth in the last ten years. No, there is no such growth and no, there is no one digit inflation for the poor guy. Income distribution unjustness literally “sucks” the income of the poor guy and the average guy in terms of social security and taxation. Increase in foreign debt does not mean much for the state, as it has now limited pressure on macroeconomic level in terms of public debt; however, the pressure with the increase is much higher on the private sector. As recent Turkish economic policies rely on foreign investment and “sentimental” waves, either the system will crash at some point, or we will see the world record for taxation, even if it will not solve much of anything in the long run. We may safely say that this is one of the worst economy and finance administrations on board. Economic instability changes international decisions. Despite that Spain’s position and situation is different, the same thing in my opinion is also the reason why Madrid did not get the Olympics.

Another reason is pretty obvious: Syria. Instead of non-violently and rightfully (in terms of international laws and agreements) interfering with unjust and cruel policies of Al-Assad and helping the victims of the regime in Syria, Turkey seems to have decided on harboring armed opposition members, providing those people with equipment, and deporting Syrian citizens living on the western parts of Turkey “because they support the regime in principle”. Still, “stray” bullets, bomb attacks and shells continue to terrorize the people living around the Syrian border of Turkey. Like that was not enough, Turkey’s insistence on performing a military operation into Syria seems meaningless, considering the position of the United Nations and the international community in general. Even on the US side, there is strong opposition for such an operation. Claiming that Israel is responsible for certain “not liked” matters around the region and trying to take Israel into direct contact with Syria as an ally is also “by itself” meaningless. Besides, who would trust a country singing peace songs in the Olympics presentations while preparing to attack a neighbor country? In addition to all these things, I doubt there are many members of the IOC who had not visited İstanbul before. The city and the country described in the presentation were great, but they were clearly not İstanbul and Turkey. There was a dreamland somewhere, without classic orientalist appearance, traffic jams and great nature. I have been living in İstanbul practically all my life, and trust me, that was not İstanbul and IOC was clever enough to see that. Maybe despite all these, some questions need to be asked:

Did İstanbul deserve the Olympics?


Was İstanbul good “enough” considering past choices?


Could we do a good job if we got it?

Damn, yes!

Would I desperately want such an organization in my city?

I would love that.

Was İstanbul better than Tokyo, or even Madrid in this race?

No. And here is another reason along with all of the above.

In terms of investment into sports in general, and fair play, Turkey is experiencing one of the worst eras in its history. Investment into sports did not change much; it was practically always low and careless. We had an athlete who died recently while trying to earn money by working at a construction site, think about it. About this season and about the year 2020, we did not have much to offer in terms of sportsmanship and fair play. I do not remember a couple of years when there was such big sets of doping scandals in the country. The terrible events are so many that I am starting to believe one out of every two or three athletes is on steroids, drugs, etc. We can convict match fixing teams and persons in the court, but we cannot really punish them. In fact, we need to be taught a lesson by the UEFA, or by the CAS to understand that we did something wrong. We still do not see a way to prevent those things from happening again. For example, today I learned with the good words of our “beloved” PM that athletes who were found to be in doping were not stripped of their awards inside Turkey. Think about it. Lance Armstrong was almost put into eternal damnation and was stripped of his titles. He was degraded in the eyes of the public, and they were right in doing so. On the other hand, we have athletes –many of them, actually- found “guilty” of taking performance enhancing drugs. These are not mostly our poor, dying-at-a-construction-yard athletes. These are mostly our elite, most beloved athletes who “still” have their medals, awards in “gold” by the state. Most of them even hold their positions in the highest ranks of the nation’s sports teams. Stating that we will ensure fair play would mean nothing while we have such a problem in our account, because other candidates seemed already insured about these issues.

Consequently, I am naturally sorry that we could not “win” this thing, but I would also understand why we did not. Additionally, I would also understand people who did not want the Olympics or who are happy that we did not get it. In terms of social values and human rights, the opinions supporting and wanting the Olympics are just as viable as the opinions in the opposite direction. Declaring someone a traitor and an enemy of the public is an old habit in this country. Anyone who finds an opinion “not fitting their opinion” is claiming that someone is a traitor. Opinions, rights and arguments do not work this way. We must not forget that we are not the only ones that lost the “race” towards 2020. Madrid also lost, and I do not see people blaming other people who did not want the Olympics, calling them traitors and public enemies. Please, just keep calm and listen.

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