x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

There are many reasons why Istanbul's Olympic bid failed

Istanbul lost the 2020 Olympics to Tokyo for reasons beyond simply the quality of its bid
"Japanese screams of elation awakened the Turks from their two years of daydreaming," commentator Samir Salha wrote in yesterday's edition of the London-based newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.
The writer was referring to the cheers of the Japanese Olympic delegation in Buenos Aires last weekend when Tokyo was named host of the 2020 Olympic Games.
The International Olympic Committee's delegates voted 60-36 for Tokyo, leaving Istanbul, which was contending for the honour for the fifth time, to another disillusionment.
"Madrid's exit from the final three-way race, losing to Istanbul, had given millions of Turks an extra dose of hope and a foretaste of triumph that did not last more than an hour," Salha wrote.
Japan's win, which many observers had expected, took time to sink in for the thousands of Turks who congregated before screens at Sultanahmet Square in the old city of Istanbul. What would have been an all-night party turned into deep frustration.
"In fact, the Turks had not paid much attention to the poll findings and international betting that showed Tokyo was the clear favourite all along," the writer noted.
But what was so wrong with Istanbul's bid that a contender like Japan - which has not only previously hosted the Games, in 1964, but is still recovering from a major nuclear disaster - could beat it so effortlessly?
"The scope of Turkish preparations and multiple pledges to realise dozens of mega-projects over the next seven years on a $20 billion (Dh73.5bn) budget - starting with the construction of the world's biggest airport - seem to have fallen short of convincing members of the IOC's general assembly," the writer said. Turkey's prime geographical location as a bridge between East and West, didn't help, either. Nor did its 8,000 years of history and heritage, he added.
The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said at Buenos Aires ahead of the announcement that granting an open, tolerant and well-equipped Muslim nation like Turkey the honour of hosting the Olympics would significantly bolster global efforts to foster mutual understanding between civilisations. That argument also went down the drain, the writer went on.
It seems that even Napoleon -who said: "If the whole world were one state, Istanbul would be the capital of it" - would not have been enough, he said.
Many Turks blame the Europeans. They say the votes that were given to Madrid in the penultimate round all shifted to Japan, so that a Muslim, Middle Eastern nation would not get the chance to bask in the global limelight, the writer said.
"We can go on and on, but we will probably not be able to soak up the anger and distaste that the Turks are feeling right now," he concluded.
Diplomacy on Syria will bring many gains
If the Syrian regime honours its stated commitment to hand over its chemical weapons to international watchdogs in a bid to dodge a US strike, the benefits for the region will be immense, argued Prof Ibrahim El Bahrawy, who teaches Hebrew Studies at Cairo's Ain Shams University.
Writing yesterday for the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad, Prof El Bahrawy said the Syrian handover would send "a strong message" to regional powers wanting weapons of mass destruction. "The message is that Arabs and their international allies will not allow the region to be dragged into such a hazardous arms race," the author said.
In addition to delivering the Syrian people from the fear of being subjected to nerve gas again, the risks of these arms getting into the hands of extremist groups would also be dashed, he wrote.
"Moreover, the spectre of a regional war - which may have been the outcome of a US strike - would dissipate. A US strike could have prompted the Syrian regime and its allies . to seek revenge on Turkey, Jordan and Israel."
Indeed, if this Russia-brokered deal with Syria succeeds, one can also imagine future collaboration between Moscow and Washington on Iran's nuclear programme.
And if that is resolved, the author said, Israel will run out of arguments as to why it is stockpiling nuclear warheads.
Kerry's biased efforts hinder the peace talks
Despite his busy schedule, John Kerry the US secretary of state found time to meet the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and members of the Arab Initiative Committee this week, said the Jerusalem-based Palestinian daily Al Quds in its editorial.
Mr Abbas said Palestinians and Israelis are resolved to continue direct peace talks. However, around the time of the meetings, Mr Kerry was urging the European Union to postpone its decision to ban financial dealings with Israeli settlements, which he called "Israeli establishments on Palestinian territories."
"Such bizarre positions contradict the simplest principles of peace. They reveal blatant disregard for the Palestinian and Arab efforts in support of talks," the paper said.
This is a development that dissipates any illusions about Washington's unbiased position in the issue.
"It is up to us to review the viability of negotiations in view of the obvious US bias and the Israeli plans for new settlements and the Judaisation of Jerusalem," the paper added.
Many Palestinians have lost faith in the negotiations anyway. They see it as futile and a mere cover for Israeli practices, the paper noted.
* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk