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Istanbul downplays soccer worries after 2020 boost

Updated: 2012-05-25 10:30

ISTANBUL - Istanbul's efforts to host the 2020 Olympics are a "priority", the bid chief said on Thursday after the city made it into a three-horse race for the Games despite Turkey also wanting to hold the 2020 European soccer Championship.

Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo are in the running to host the Games after Doha and Baku were dropped by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Wednesday.

However, the IOC is not sympathetic to the idea of an Olympic host nation holding another major sporting event in the country in the same year as the Olympics.

"We are here for the Olympics today, this is our priority," said Istanbul bid leader Hasan Arat, dismissing questions about Turkey's pursuit of the European soccer Championship.  

"There will be one Games, one city, two continents - Istanbul offers a lot of things," Arat said while crying tears of joy as he delivered the good news to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul.  

It is the second time Turkey's largest city, bridging Europe and Asia, has been shortlisted by the IOC although it has presented four unsuccessful bids before.

Istanbul downplays soccer worries after 2020 boost

NBA Orlando Magic player Hedo Turkoglu (C) celebrates with the Istanbul delegation during the announcement of the candidates cities for the 2020 summer Olympics at the SportAccord convention at the Congress Center in Quebec City, May 23, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]

"I can't find the words to describe how happy I am," said Hidayet Turkoglu, the Orlando Magic forward and Turkish national basketball team captain who has been named ambassador of Istanbul's 2020 bid.

"I will do my best for Istanbul to host the 2020 Games," Turkoglu told reporters in Quebec City where the IOC announced its decision.

Another risk factor for the Istanbul bid are allegations of match-fixing in Turkish soccer, which are the subject of a court case.

The investigation has cast a shadow over Turkey's multi-billion-dollar soccer league and European football's ruling body UEFA barred Fenerbahce from the Champions League last year because of their alleged involvement.

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