By Duncan Mackay

Istanbul riot 4 May 2013June 2 - Istanbul's bid to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics has had a long shadow cast over it by violent anti-Government riots which has seen more than 1,700 protesters arrested.

Local business owners and city workers this morning began working on the huge clean-up operation after much of Turkey's financial capital was left in chaos following two days of riots, which saw several hours of of tear gas attacks by the police on overwhelmingly peaceful protesters.

Wrecked cars and buses with smashed windows were left abandoned in the streets overnight while debris littered the roads.

Amnesty International claimed two people had been killed and more than 1,000 injured, though there was no confirmation of those figures.

Istanbul riot 2 May 2013Destroyed vehicles, including police cars and buses, littered the area in Taksim Square in Istanbul following protests that began against the demolition of Gezi Park

Britain's Foreign Office has warned its citizens not to travel to Istanbul.

The trouble has left even Istanbul's Mayor Kadir Topbaş casting doubts over Istanbul's ability to successfully host the Olympics and Paralympics.

"As Istanbul's Mayor going through such an event, the fact that the whole world watched saddens me," he said in an interview with private broadcaster NTV.

"How will we explain it?

"With what claims will we host the 2020 Olympic Games?"

The protests followed Government's plan to bulldoze the area around Taksim Square, as well as the nearby Ottoman-era Tarlabasi district, to make way for new shopping malls and modern apartments it claimed would regenerate the neighborhood.

But the protests, which spread to the capital Ankara and other cities across the country, have been seen as turning into a broadening of social and political grievances against the Turkish Government led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Last week the Government had passed legislation curbing the sale and advertising of alcoholic drinks in the country which has been secular since its founding in 1923. 

Istanbul riot 3 May 2013Police use a water cannon to disperse protesters near the Taksim Gezi Park

Erdoğan has blamed the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), and claimed that those taking part were trying to undermine democracy, dismissing them as "looters".

He also blamed social media for fuelling the trouble, which had started last week but escalated on Friday (May 31). 

"There is a trouble called Twitter," said Erdoğan in a television interview.

"Unmitigated lies are there [on Twitter].

"The thing that is called social media is a troublemaker in societies today."

Most of those arrested have now been released and the situation remained largely peaceful today.

But there is no hiding that the riots have had a potentially devastating effect on Istanbul's bid, which they had presented to an international public for the first time at the SportAccord International Convention in St Petersburg last Thursday (May 30), alongside rivals Madrid and Tokyo, to a largely positive response.

Istanbul riot 5 May 2013Protesters clash with riot police during a night of demonstrations in Istanbul

"Istanbul 2020 is monitoring the regrettable situation regarding the demonstrations in Istanbul very carefully," Turkish officials from the bid said in a statement tonight.

"Whilst there has been an improvement in Istanbul in the last 24 hours with peaceful demonstrations and a positive community spirit in helping to clean up and repair damage, the situation remains fluid.

"Therefore Istanbul 2020 will leave it for the relevant authorities to comment further on the specific developments on the demonstrations.

"However, despite these recent events, all sections of Turkey remain united in our dream to host our nation's first ever Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020.

"The slogan for our Olympic bid is 'Bridge Together' and there is a common desire to unite in the Olympic spirit and show the world that we can work together for a better Turkey."

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

Related stories
May 2013: Istanbul 2020 places emphasis on culture and change in polished bid presentation