May 23 - Istanbul 2020 have offically appointed Hasan Arat (pictured) as the leader of its bid to host the Olympics and Paralympics, it was announced here tonight.
Arat, the vice-president of the National Olympic Committee of Turkey (NOCT), accepted the role after Istanbul were one of three cities given Candidate City status by the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) ruling Executive Committee after they studied the Working Group Report.
His appointment is the most powerful signal yet that the Turkish Government plan to prioritise the bid to host the Olympics and Paralympics ahead of the campaign to stage football's European Championships in 2020.
Arat, a former top-level basketball player, who is now a successful property developer, had hesitated accepting the position due to the uncertainty caused by the Euro 2020 bid.
A clear statement from the Turkish Government is now expected in the next few days that they will not support the football bid at the expense of the Olympics, effectively ending their campaign.
This is Istanbul's fift bid for the Olympica and Paralympics but this is undoutbedly the strongest yet.
"We are delighted that the report recognises that Turkey's Government and its people have demonstrated a commitment to hosting the Games over many years," said Arat.
"That commitment has grown over a 20 year period and now the Olympic family should be in no doubt: Turkey wants the Games, and we are better placed than ever to realise our dream.
"It is also very pleasing that the IOC understands and appreciates our Games vision.
"With a plan that embraces the European and Asian sides of the city, Istanbul 2020 is trying to achieve something that has never been done before and host the Games across two continents simultaneously.
"The new social and economic opportunities for [our] large youth population are at the very heart of our Bid.
"Nearly 50 per cent of Turkey's population is under-25, and Istanbul 2020 is determined to provide the next generation with a sustainable legacy."
Until now, Arat had been sharing the leader's role with Ugur Erdener (pictured above second left), the President of the NOCT.
Erdener, the President of World Archery and a member of the IOC, will now assume a less high-profile public role but his influence is set to be keenly felt during the next 16 months in the build-up to the final vote in Buenos Aires on September 7, 2013.
"We are honoured that the IOC has taken the time to offer us this detailed appraisal," he said.
"We look forward to working closely with the Olympic family to refine our plan so that we can provide an exceptional Games-time experience for all client groups.
"Istanbul offers the chance of a truly spectacular theatre for the Games, and we will work to match this with a plan that creates the perfect
environment for elite athletic performance: maximum comfort, maximum convenience and maximum excitement."
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Pictures by Aleksandra Sersniova
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