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

PyeongChang late night roundup

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Last night belonged to the U.S. women’s hockey team. In the unlikely event that you slept through the game, the USA defeated Canada in a mesmerizing 3-2 shootout to win the USA’s first Olympic gold medal in women’s hockey since 1998.

It was Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson who gave the United States the go-ahead goal in the sixth shootout attempt, and it was Rooney’s block that sealed the victory for the Americans.

That wasn’t the only key event tonight, though. Mikaela Shiffrin got back on the podium in the women’s combined, while Lindsey Vonn posted a DNF in the second run.

Continue reading below to catch up on all the action from PyeongChang.


Hockey: USA win gold, def. CAN 3-2 (SO)

This victory was decades in the making. After narrowly losing to Canada in Olympic finals before, the Americans were finally able to win the gold medal.

The game proved to be a hotly-contested affair and featured the highest quality, and the grittiest, hockey played throughout the course of the tournament. The USA were up 1-0 at the first intermission, before Canada put up two goals of their own in the second. A goal by Monique Lamoureux-Morando brought the U.S. level before they took out the four-time defending gold medalists in the shootout.

Click here for the full recap 

Alpine Skiing: Shiffrin wins silver, Vonn misses out  

Mikaela Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn had mixed results in the women’s combined. Vonn, two days after claiming bronze in the downhill, posted the best time in the downhill section tonight, while Shiffrin had some work to do after finishing sixth.

Shiffrin, who favors the slalom, sped down the bottom portion of the course to propel herself to a guaranteed medal position. Vonn, who skied the slalom last, saw her quest for gold abruptly end after she hooked one of the gates on the course, resulting in a DNF.

The two favorites of the men’s slalom, Marcel Hirscher and Henrik Kristofferson, both failed to finish their races, which left open a huge opportunity for the field. The man who stepped up was Sweden’s Andre Myhrer, who finished in 1:38.99.

Read the full women’s combined recap here 

Short Track: South Korea stunned in final short track day 

It was a disastrous day for South Korea. Their strategy for this event was to sit back for the majority of the race, and then strike in the last three laps.

Choi Minjeong, a huge favorite to win gold, found herself in fifth place heading into the final two laps and attempted to maneuver her way into the gold medal position. On the final turn, though, Choi tried to move inside the lane but ended up colliding with her compatriot Suk Shim-Hee, leaving the South Korean crowd silent.

Suzanne Schulting of the Netherlands won the gold.

In the men’s relay 5000m, the Koreans were expected to win gold as well. There was a lot of contact in the race, but it was an untimely fall from a South Korean skater that ended their dreams – again, leaving the home crowd silent.

Hungary, China, and Canada took home the medals.

Full recap available here 

Biathlon: Belarus wins relay gold on windy evening

A very windy evening made shooting increasingly difficult for the athletes tonight. It reared its ugly head with Germany and Norway, two teams that were supposed to be the front runners for the gold medal. Laura Dahlmeier, who’s been excellent this whole fortnight, didn’t even have a chance to properly anchor Germany because they were already a minute behind before they reached her.

It ended up being Belarus with the gold, powered by six-time Olympic gold medalist Darya Domracheva in the final leg. Sweden and France finished second and third, respectively.

Nordic Combined: Germany powers to gold 

A strong cross-country performance gave Germany another medal in the nordic combined. Austria led entering the event, having finished first in the large hill portion, but Eric Frenzel and company crushed the competition in the 20km relay. The Germans won by a margin of 52 seconds. Norway and Austria came in second and third, respectively.

Full nordic combined recap available here

Miracle re-dub: USA win gold in Olympic hockey

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Feb. 22 has proven to be a day bringing good cheer to American hockey.

Exactly 38 years ago to this day, Herb Brooks guided the United States men’s hockey team to an improbable Olympic gold medal, putting an end to the Soviet Union’s four straight hockey golds.

History does have a way of repeating itself.

Tonight, the U.S. women’s team’s Olympic anguish turned to triumph after they beat arch-rivals Canada 3-2 in a shootout thriller. In doing so, the American women snapped Canada’s streak of four consecutive Olympic gold medals.

It was only four years ago when the Americans suffered a heartbreaking defeat to Canada in Sochi, losing in overtime. They wouldn’t allow themselves to forget it.

It was that memory that pushed Team USA in this tournament, who were destined to take on their bitter northern rivals. Like Herb Brooks’ team, the U.S. women’s team showed tremendous character to fight back in the third period when they were down 1-2, and again when they were down in the shootout.

A beautifully choreographed penalty shot from Jocelyne Lamoreux-Davidson, backed up by 20-year old Maddie Rooney’s game winning save, that sealed Team USA’s historic run.

Four years ago was Canada’s time. Tonight, it’s America’s time.