Protests won’t affect Istanbul’s 2020 Olympics bid

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Istanbul 2020 Officials said Wednesday that the recent violent protests in their nation will have “no bearing” on whether or not Istanbul is chosen to host the 2020 Olympics when IOC members meet for a final vote in Buenos Aires this September.

“The feedback Istanbul 2020 has received from IOC members and the wider Olympic family continues to be positive and very understanding,” Officials told the AP. “While they are obviously as keen as we are for a swift and peaceful resolution, the majority of people we have spoken to recognize that 2020 is still seven years away.”

The protests come amid Turkey’s fifth bid to host the Summer Games in the last six Olympic cycles, dating back to 1996. As one of only three finalists, this is already their best showing after finishing fourth in the vote to host the 2008 Games that were eventually awarded to Beijing, and finishing fifth for the 2000 Games, which were hosted by Sydney.

Istanbul’s price tag of $19 billion is astronomical compared to Tokyo’s $4.5 billion and Madrid’s $1.9 billion, but Turkey is focusing its pitch on improving transportation to “Bridge Together” two continents, figuratively – of course – but also literally by way of the Bosphorus, which connects Europe and Asia.

And so, officials wish to focus on the idea of unity, rather than on the protests:

“This is a bid for the people of Turkey and we are united by our passion to bring the Games here for the first time. Istanbul 2020, and the 20-year dream of the Turkish people, will not be affected by the events.”

Turkey is also set to host the Under-20 soccer World Cup starting later this month, and FIFA officials have said that the tournament will go on as scheduled.

What to watch at Drake Relays, Penn Relays

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Olympic gold medalists ramp up their track and field seasons at the Penn Relays and Drake Relays, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold this weekend.

Athletes are working toward the U.S. Championships in June and the world championships in August.

First, the historic Penn Relays will air on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold on Friday (5:30-6:30 p.m. ET) and Saturday (12:30-3 p.m. ET).

USA vs. The World in men’s and women’s 4x100m, 4x400m and sprint medley relays will air live on Saturday from Franklin Field in Philadelphia. A full schedule is here.

The U.S. teams are led by Olympic relay champions English Gardner and Natasha Hastings. The full roster is here.

Rio Olympic rematches highlight the individual-event fields at the Drake Relays in Des Moines on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold from 3-5 p.m ET on Saturday. A full schedule is here.

Perhaps no field is deeper than the 100m hurdles. World-record holder Keni Harrison takes on Rio silver and bronze medalists Kristi Castlin and Nia Ali, plus 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson.

The 110m hurdles contingent is strong as well. It features the last two Olympic champions, Jamaican Omar McLeod and American Aries Merritt, plus 2013 World champion David Oliver.

Grenada’s Kirani James and American LaShawn Merritt, who earned silver and bronze in Rio, go head-to-head again in the 400m at Drake.

The men’s 1500m is headlined by Rio Olympic 800m bronze medalist Clayton Murphy and London Olympic 1500m silver medalist Leo Manzano.

Rio bronze medalist Jenny Simpson races individually for the first time this year in the women’s 1500m.

That field also includes New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin, who gained fame of her own in Rio. Hamblin and American Abbey D’Agostino fell in an Olympic 5000m heat and helped each other make it to the finish line. Both were praised for their sportsmanship.

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IOC president unsure whether esports should be considered sport

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Esports are gaining momentum in the international sports movement, but they are not close to becoming an Olympic sport.

“We are not yet 100 percent clear whether esports is really sport, with regard to physical activity and what it needs to be considered sport,” IOC president Thomas Bach said Tuesday, according to insidethegames. “We do not see an organization or a structure that will give us confidence, or guarantee, that in this area the Olympic rules and values of sport are respected and in place, and that the implementation of these rules are monitored and secured.”

The first clear step (of many) to become an Olympic sport is for the IOC to recognize the sport’s international governing body.

Esports will be added as a medal sport to the Asian Games in 2022, and has been praised by LA 2024 Olympic bid chairman Casey Wasserman, but it is not yet IOC recognized.

“We are watching it, we see the differences, we see the lack of organisation,” Bach said, according to the report. “But we also see the high engagement of youth in esports. Therefore, we have to carefully consider how this could be consolidated.”

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