Barely had Olympic president Jacques Rogge, nine days ago, proclaimed Tokyo the winner and Istanbul and Madrid losers of the 2020 Olympic bidding than the football federation registered its bid to host the semi-finals and final of Euro 2020 with UEFA.
The nominated venue is Istanbul’s upgraded Atatürk Olympic Stadium which, presumably, will now lose the ‘Olympic’ label.
Still, a stadium naming reversion will not erase from UEFA’s corporate memory the Turkish government’s preference for an Olympic bid gamble over a Euro hosting which was all assured.
Turkey had lost out by only one vote to France, 7-6, in the bid contest for Euro 2016. With the economic downturn deterring other bidders, Turkey was set fair to land 2020: co-hosting interest from Georgia/Azerbaijan and Ireland/Scotland were never considered seriously in Nyon.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan promoted governmental support in a face to face meeting with UEFA president Michel Platini during UEFA Congress in Istanbul in the spring of 2012.
Then Erdogan attended the London Olympics. He was won over by the matchless prospect of worldwide kudos to be generated from a construction project which could be neatly assimilated into his multi-zillion national plan to the further enhancement of the lifestyles of his property developer cronies.
Both UEFA and the IOC had long made it clear that Erdogan & Co could not have both Euro and Olympics. UEFA president Michel Platini had already grown irritated and impatient with Turkish prevarication. Hence, even before Erdogan was chaperoned around the wonders of the London Olympic Park, Platini had come up with his pan-European proposal for Euro 2020.
When he dropped it on his executive committee at the end of Euro 2012 in Kiev it was a warning shot across Turkey’s bows. By the time Platini and his exco colleagues reassembled at the Champions League draw in Monte Carlo in last August the die was cast.
Reaction to the Platini Plan had been positive, especially from his middle-of-the-road constituency.
Turkey, he intimated, had missed the boat. Not only that but “if they expect us to wait for the Olympic decision and then, perhaps, have Euro 2020 as a consolation then this is impossible. We don’t wait on them.”
Since then the prospects for Turkey had grown progressively more gloomy.
A buoyant Olympic bid was dragged down beneath the IOC waves and drowned by the weight of street unrest over just one (!) construction project, by the heavy-handed policing inspired by Erdogan’s medieval rant over the evils of social media, by endemic doping among the country’s track and field athletes, by the lack of any sign of contrition over the football matchfixing saga and by the poor turn-out across the nation for FIFA’s World Youth Cup.
This month is UEFA’s deadline for expressions of interest in the Euro 2020 host options: 12 packages of three group matches and one knockout round (round of 16 or quarter-finals), and one package for the semi-finals and the final.
Group package applications include a new Brussels stadium (Belgium), Amsterdam ArenA (Holland), Budapest (Hungary) and Belgrade (Serbia). But the Turks, despite all the baggage, are going for bust in bidding or the climactic trio along with proven (and baggage-free) hosting favourites such as Munich and Wembley.
Never mind upgrading the stadium, Turkey must embark on a significant fence-mending programme if it wishes to land its 2020 second prize.