Seven giant Turkish companies have pledged to chip in for the national bid to host the 2020 Olympics, Sports Minister Suat Kilic said on Saturday.
“Until the sponsors became involved in this process with all they’ve got, we felt all alone,” Kilic said. “When the private sector shouldered the burden, we realised we were one big family.”
Kilic spoke at a televised conference where representatives from seven of Turkey’s most powerful enterprises, including Koc, Dogus and Sabanci conglomerates, pledged they were ready to “share the burden” to host the Olympics in 2020.
The minister said the contribution from the seven sponsors was capped at 2.5 million euros ($3.2 mn), which meant they were handling “fifty percent of the burden.”
“It is not just the money, but the morale and the energy,” he added.
Turkey’s bid to host the 2020 Games comes as part of efforts to turn Istanbul into a global business hub by 2023, the centennial of the Turkish Republic.
“We think the Olympics bid is an invaluable opportunity for our country and an element that complements the 2023 vision,” said Ali Koc from Turkey’s biggest conglomerate, Koc Holding.
The construction of one of the world’s largest airports in Istanbul is sure to help the bid once it is finished, said Temel Kotil, the CEO of Turkish Airlines, another sponsor.
The airport is expected to be operational in 2016 with an initial capacity to handle 100 million passengers through six runways.
“1.5 million people are expected to come to Istanbul for the 2020 Olympics. We can carry them in a couple of days,” Kotil said. “Our city is ready for the Olympics with all its infrastructure.”
The 15-million strong Istanbul is up against Tokyo and Madrid in the run, which will be concluded by an International Olympic Committee (IOC) meeting in Buenos Aires in September.
Last week, Turkey’s bid received a huge psychological boost as its historical foe Greece pledged its full support to its candidacy.
According to the agreement signed by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Greek counterpart Antonis Samaras, Athens will cooperate with Ankara on the “technical and related aspects” of the huge organisation.
The “symbolic agreement” said both countries would also look to enhance the benefits if Istanbul is awarded the Games.
Turkey has been bidding to host the Games since 2000, but none of its four bids were successful.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]