ISTANBUL: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday acknowledged he was still rankled by Turkey’s failure to win the right to host the Olympic Games, saying it had the ability to hold any sporting event.
Istanbul was a candidate to host the 2020 Summer Games but lost out to Tokyo in the election in September 2013, a decision that still irks the Turkish strongman.
“We have still not been able to bring the Olympics to our country,” Erdogan told a meeting of top football players and administrators in Istanbul.
“But you know what intrigues we went through then. Even though we deserved it, we were not given the Olympics.
“They gave it to the ones who would be hosting it for the second time, not who would host it for the first time,” said Erdogan, referring to the fact that Tokyo hosted the Games in 1964.
Erdogan did not explicitly say if Turkey was in the future mulling another Olympic bid, something that has been rumoured on occasion.
But he said after a spree of sporting infrastructure projects in recent years: “We are always ready to hold any kind of sporting event.”
Turkey is bidding to host the Euro 2024 football championships, hoping construction of a succession of new stadiums over the last years will give it an edge over its rival Germany.
The International Olympic Committee is looking into awarding both the 2024 and 2028 Summer Games this year, which could lock in Paris and Los Angeles over the next two Olympic cycles.
Erdogan also announced plans to build a 40,000 capacity new stadium in the capital Ankara, which lacks a world class stadium.
Many observers believed that Turkey was on course to become the first majority Muslim nation to host the Olympics in 2020.
But its case was not helped by mass anti-government protests that took place nationwide at the height of the bidding process in June 2013.
A slew of terror attacks over the last year and the July 15 failed coup has raised concern over the security of Turkey as a venue for top sporting events, although officials dismiss such concerns.
This year, Istanbul will in May host the prestigious Final Four of European basketball’s top club competition, EuroLeague.