Istanbul 2020

Istanbul’s chances of hosting 2020 Olympics

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The International Olympic Committee will make the first of three major votes at its session in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Saturday.

Nearly 100 IOC members will choose the host city of the 2020 Olympics — Istanbul, Madrid or Tokyo — via secret ballot beginning at 2:45 p.m. Eastern Time with the winner scheduled to be announced between 4 and 4:30. For more on what happens Saturday, click here.

OlympicTalk will look at the chances each city has of winning the vote. Here is a rundown of Istanbul:

Turkey’s largest city (population 13 million) was the trendy pick to host the 2020 Olympics by reporters in 2013 prediction columns nine months ago. The bridge between Europe and Asia wasn’t as steady as Madrid or Tokyo, but its economy and sporting desire were growing together, hosting major events in golf, soccer, swimming and tennis. Its slogan has long been “Bridge Together,” with the phrase “History in the Making” becoming its theme in the final days.

The last few months have not been kind to Istanbul’s prospects. More than two million people participated in anti-government protests in Turkey in June. Five were killed and more than 8,000 injured, according to reports. Tear gas and rubber bullets were used by authorities. Thousands gathered in Istanbul’s Taksim Square and other areas calling for the resignation of the prime minister, who will reportedly fly to Buenos Aires to help pitch Istanbul 2020.

Then one of the largest doping scandals in sports history enveloped the country, especially its track and field program that includes Olympic medalists. In August, Turkey’s track and field federation suspended 31 athletes for two years. Granted, one could argue that’s a positive for Turkey, that the nation is catching cheats with seven years to clean it up altogether.

“The fact that so many doping tests are being conducted and athletes are being exposed is having a positive impact on the Olympic world. It is a show of Turkey’s determination to stamp out doping and its determination to clean up sports,” Istanbul 2020 bid leader Hasan Arat said, according to The Associated Press. “We are determined to go into the 2020 Games with clean athletes. This is a zero-tolerance (for doping) step and Turkey will not make any concessions on the issue.”

The current civil war in Syria, which borders Turkey to the south, is not helping, either.

Istanbul 2020’s promotional video

So, how does Istanbul stack up? The AP described its status as “slipping.”

Robert Livingstone is the producer of GamesBids.com, a website dedicated to handicapping Olympic bid cities since 1998. He said that, despite Istanbul’s noted question marks, much can change in seven years between the vote and the actual staging of the Games.

The IOC has never awarded the Games to a predominantly Muslim country, which could work in Istanbul’s favor given the 2016 Olympics were awarded to Rio de Janeiro, marking the first Games held in South America.

“The Olympic movement can open the door to a new culture,” Arat, a former pro basketball player, told Agence France-Press. “It can bridge Olympic culture to new culture. A new bridge to historical impact, with 8,000 years of history the Olympic movement is not just giving the Olympic Games to a city — they (the IOC) would be giving hope, trust and peace to a region.”

Istanbul would globalize the Olympics more than Madrid or Tokyo, whose nations hosted previous Olympics.

“There’s no doubt (Istanbul) could get the job done from an infrastructure and organizational perspective,” Livingstone said. “They have to sell the IOC that it’s a good place to go.”

Istanbul didn’t come close to convincing the IOC on four previous occasions — 2000 (fifth place among five finalists), 2004 (didn’t make final cut of five cities), 2008 (fourth of five) and 2012 (didn’t make final cut of five cities).

“This is their best chance ever,” Livingstone said. “Time has passed, and they’ve made all those improvements. They moved from a developing nation to a developed nation. The way these votes go, they definitely have a chance. Nobody’s ruled out.”

GamesBids.com rated Istanbul a close second to Tokyo in its most recent predictions. The gap between Istanbul and third-place Madrid is more than three times the gap between Tokyo and Istanbul, according to GamesBids’ formula.

Livingstone, covering his fourth IOC bid city session this week, said he thought the vote will go like this: Madrid will advance through the first round with a strong contingent of voters with either Istanbul or Tokyo eliminated. From there, the voters of the eliminated city could pool with the one still alive, potentially overtaking Madrid.

“Istanbul’s in the race, but it’s a tricky one to handicap,” Livingstone said. “It’s going to be pretty tight.”

Key information for IOC session in Buenos Aires

Man arrested after trying to steal Olympic torch

SALVADOR, BRAZIL - MAY 24: The Olympic flame in the Bonfim Church, on May 24, 2016 in Salvador, Brazil. (Photo by Felipe Oliveira/Getty Images)
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SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) — A man was wrestled to the ground and detained after he tried to steal the Olympic torch as it passed through the Brazilian town of Guarulhos.

In the video, which can be seen here, the unidentified man is seen trying to break through the line of security guards accompanying the torch bearer at the 40 kilometer mark of the parade in Sao Paulo state. The man was taken away and the torch bearer continued the run on Saturday.

The torch will be in Sao Paulo for the next days and will arrive in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 4, one day ahead of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.

Rio’s Aug. 5-21 games have been hit by Brazil’s economic recession, security concerns and fears about the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

MORE: Man takes selfie in front of crash during Olympic torch relay

It’s official: U.S. sending 555 athletes to Rio Olympics

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27:  Mariel Zagunis of the United States Olympic fencing team carries her country's flag during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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With a ceremony on Venice Beach, just outside Los Angeles, which is bidding for the 2024 Olympics Games, the 2016 U.S. Olympic team was officially confirmed Saturday for the Rio Games.

Four-time Olympic gold medalist Janet Evans, who is on the LA 2024 Olympic bid committee, hosted the event and was joined on stage by women’s basketball player Tamika Catchings, who will make her fourth Olympic appearance, as well as water polo player Tony Azevedo and beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh Jennings, both of whom are set for their fifth Olympics.

Evans confirmed a roster 555 U.S. athletes, which will be the largest athlete delegation of any nation, the first time since 2004 that the U.S. held that distinction at a Summer Olympics.

Among the interesting numbers released by Team USA:

– The most women (292) to ever compete for one nation in Olympic history; 263 U.S. men will compete.

– Americans will participate in 244 of the 306 medal events in Rio.

– The U.S. will be represented in 27 sports (40 disciplines).

– 191 returning Olympians.

– Three six-time Olympians – equestrian Phillip Dutton, and shooters Emil Milev and Kim Rhode – giving the U.S. 11 athletes in history, summer or winter, to make six Games.

– Seven five-time Olympians – Tony Azevedo (water polo), Glenn Eller (shooting), Bernard Lagat (track and field), Steven Lopez (taekwondo), Michael Phelps (swimming), Kerri Walsh Jennings (beach volleyball) and Venus Williams (tennis). Only 35 U.S. athletes in addition to these have appeared in at least five Olympics.

– 19 four-time Olympians, 50 three-time Olympians, 112 two-time Olympians and 363 Olympic rookies.

– 108 returning Olympic medalists, 68 returning Olympic gold medalists, and 45 Olympians owning multiple medals.

– 53 U.S. athletes will attempt to defend titles from London; 19 in individual events.

– 54 of the athletes are parents.

– 17 athletes have military ties.

– 46 states are represented.

MORE: U.S. Olympic team of 550-plus athletes most of any nation in Rio