February 20 - If Istanbul's bid to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics is successful then it can count on Britain's support, Sports Minister Hugh Robertson has promised after leading a UK trade mission to Turkey's financial capital.
Robertson, who was Olympics Minister when London 2012 hosted a Games widely-acclaimed as the best in history, headed a delegation of more than 20 companies, including Populous and British Telecom, seeking to work with Turkey as it continues to enhance its repuation as a leading host of major sports events.
"This milestone trade mission comes at a time when contact between Turkey and the UK has never been stronger," said Robertson.
"These are extraordinarily exciting times for sport in Turkey.
"The Istanbul 2020 bid encapsulates this excitement, bringing together the city's fantastic history in a country that showcases the best of Asia and the best of Europe.
"Therefore to have so much recent expertise from UK companies involved with London 2012 here in Turkey in one visit has been extremely valuable for both sides.
"Our experience in constructing and delivering great global events is at Turkey's disposal."
Robertson met with Turkey's Sports Minister, Suat Kılıç, and International Olympic Committee (IOC) member and President of the National Olympic Committee of Turkey (NOCT) Uğur Erdener, in Ankara before flying to Istanbul to meet with the leader of the Istanbul 2020 Bid Committee, Hasan Arat.
"I attended the London 2012 Games which were of the highest standard.
"Turkey is also very ambitious to host major global sports events such as the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020," said Kılıç.
"Therefore it is appropriate that we should welcome Minister Robertson and the delegation of expert UK companies to discuss how Turkey and the UK could collaborate in the future.
"The meetings have been very productive and I believe both sides have learnt a great deal."
Istanbul has hosted more than 40 major events over the last seven years, including 12 major events last year alone, such as the World Indoor Athletics Championships, the World Short Course Swimming Championships and the WTA Tour Championships,
"It is a great honour for Turkey to welcome this high-level UK trade delegation so soon after London 2012 which set a new benchmark of excellence for the Olympic and Paralympic Games," said Arat (pictured top with Robertson).
"It has been invaluable for us to meet with Hugh Robertson and the UK companies and learn first hand from their experience as we make our final preparations for the IOC Evaluation Commission visit to Istanbul in five weeks."
British companies will be hoping to cash in on the expertise gained from London 2012 whoever wins the right to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics when the IOC votes at its Session in Buenos Aires on September 7.
But Istanbul, which is currently undergoing a major upgrade of its infrastructure as part of a plan to celebrate Turkey's centenary in 2023, offers more opportunities than rivals Madrid and Tokyo.
"This has been an important visit for Turkish sport," said Erdener.
"There are representatives here from so many companies that made London 2012 successful.
"As Turkish sport is rising significantly on the world stage, I am sure that we can learn a tremendous amount from each other and enjoy many years of mutual cooperation."
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