Hasan Arat, Chairman of Istanbul’s bid for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, on why sport needs firsts Athletes rely on incremental gains.
When I was a basketball player, I was always striving to exceed the standard I set in the previous game. For athletes, yesterday’s pinnacle is today’s square one. To stay attractive to fans, broadcasters, sponsors and future hosts, sport must also be constantly crossing new frontiers and inviting new opportunities. Istanbul’s bid for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games offers sport that new frontier and those new opportunities.
Sedentary lifestyles are increasingly prevalent worldwide, particularly among young people; sport faces tough competition for their attention from computer games and reality TV. There is a time for consolidation in established markets; but right now it is more important than ever for sport to safeguard its enduring relevance by proving it is evolving as rapidly as the rest of the world.
The Olympic and Paralympic Games typifies sport’s imperative to go faster, higher, stronger. As guardians of the world’s premier event, the International Olympic Committee has led the way in the innovation and evolution of the sports world. On 7 September, the sports world will look to the IOC once more when they are presented with the opportunity to select Istanbul as the 2020 Games host city and open up a new and exciting chapter in the history of the Olympic Movement.
Quite simply, Istanbul 2020 is a chance for the IOC to make history. Never before has the Games been hosted in Turkey, the nation with the 15th oldest National Olympic Committee in the world. Never before has the Games come to a region where up to 50% of the population is under 25 years old. The population of Turkey is the youngest in Europe and we produce 700,000 university graduates every year. It is the same story across the region and an increasingly global phenomenon, where young people are not just our futures – they are the majority, right here, right now.
Istanbul 2020 will motivate and mobilise that young generation at a time when the IOC has rightly defined the youth of the world as “the heart of the Olympic Movement”; engaging them “is essential and its benefits overwhelming.”
Istanbul 2020 promises another Olympic first: it would be the first ever Games to be hosted on two continents simultaneously. It is a captivating narrative, made for television and digital media. But the symbolic significance of hosting the Games in Europe and in Asia at the same time goes beyond that. By staging the Games in a city where continents, cultures and generations have met for millennia, Istanbul 2020 will embody the unifying values of the Olympic Movement. No other city on the planet can set such a perfect stage for that seminal celebration of harmony in diversity.
I firmly believe that it is only by reaching beyond our comfort zone that we can achieve our full potential. In sport as in life, to stand still is to fall behind.