Istanbul bid boosted by historic agreement

05 March 2013 06:17

Istanbul's bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games received a huge psychological boost on Tuesday as it was revealed that bitter historical foes Greece had pledged its full support to the Turkish city's candidacy.

Antonis Samaras, the Prime Minister of Greece -- the birthplace of the ancient Games and host twice of the modern ones in Athens -- and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed the agreement after meetings on Sunday and Monday.

The agreement was one of more than 20 signed at the summit, which was aimed at boosting bilateral relations across sectors like tourism, energy and telecommunications.

Ankara and Athens have had an uneasy relationship for several decades, particularly due to disagreements over the divided island of Cyprus, as well as territorial disputes in the Aegean and East Mediterranean.

But a joint declaration committed both countries to "engage in cooperation with regard to the technical and related aspects in the organisation of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games".

It also said both countries would "explore ways of enhancing the benefits of the Olympics for the two countries" and the entire region if Istanbul is awarded the Games.

Istanbul is up against Tokyo and Madrid to host the 2020 Games. A decision will be made at an International Olympic Committee (IOC) meeting in Buenos Aires in September.

The chairman of the Istanbul 2020 Bid Committee, Hasan Arat, attended the signing ceremony in Istanbul, along with a number of senior ministers and business leaders from Turkey and Greece.

"The ties between Turkey and Greece have been strengthened today, thanks to the power of the Olympic Movement to build bridges," said Arat, who is fronting what is regarded as easily the most potent of Istanbul's five bids for the Games.

"The closer cooperation between our countries will be a valuable and lasting legacy of our bid."

Ugur Erdener, Turkey's IOC member and president of the Turkish national Olympic committee, said the agreement carried huge symbolism for the movement.

"This is a very symbolic agreement for Turkey as we look to bring the Olympic and Paralympic Games to our country for the very first time," he said.

"Greece is the spiritual home of the Olympic Movement and I hope this connection will continue to grow the huge passion for hosting the Games.

"We have had very close relations with Greece on sport for many years. I believe that this agreement will create even more opportunities."

Source: AFP