April 17 - The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) confirmed today that it had submitted a bid to UEFA to host football's 2020 European Championship, leaving a fresh question mark over Istanbul's bid to stage the Olympics and Paralympics in the same year.
UEFA President Michel Platini has previously said that he would vote for Turkey to host Euro 2020 but that the country could not host both the European Championships and Olympics in such close proximity and that they had to make up their mind about which one to pursue.
But with no other bidders so far on the horizon before the UEFA deadline of May 15 for submitting applications, there is a real prospect that Turkey could be the sole candidate and offered the event, almost by default.
That would force the Government to decide whether to accept the Championships or continue with its Olympic bid, knowing that there would be no guarantee of success and that Turkey could end up staging nothing in 2020.
Istanbul's campaign for the Olympics will face a pivotal moment just eight days after the UEFA deadline passes when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) ruling Executive Board meets in Quebec City on May 23 to discuss which cities should be shortlisted.
Turkey bid for the 2016 European Championships but narrowly lost two years ago to France, Platini's home country.
In the presence of Platini, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (pictured above, on left with Platini) appeared to back another bid during the UEFA Congress in Istanbul last month when he surprisingly said that he wanted his country to try again for 2020.
The TFF has now taken up his challenge.
"We bid for the second largest football tournament in the world [European Championships] to be played in our country," said Yıldırım Demirören (pictured top), the chairman of the TFF.
"As you all are aware, we lost the bid for the Euro 2016 by just one vote.
"Since then the Turkish footballing economy has grown to become the sixth largest in Europe and we are currently in the process of building state-of-the art stadiums across the country and huge developments have been made in improving the transportation networks between cities in Turkey.
The TFF is set to use this year's UEFA Women's Under-19 Championship, which is due to be held in Turkey between July 2 and 14, and next year's 2013 FIFA Under-20 World Cup as an opportunity to demonstrate that it is capable of hosting major football tournaments.
"We hope to welcome everyone to our country and show our hospitality," said Demirören.
"The Turkish Football Federation will do everything in its power to help Turkey win the Euro 2020 bid."
If another candidate comes forward to bid for Euro 2020, UEFA is expected to make a decision in late 2013 or early 2014.
The announcement from the TTF comes only three days after Ugur Erdener, President of the National Olympic Committee of Turkey (NOCT), sought to reassure people that Istanbul's bid to stage the Games was the "nation's primary goal".
Speaking here at the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC), where Istanbul, along with rivals Baku, Doha, Madrid and Tokyo, launched its international campaign, Erdener (pictured above, on right) had claimed that the Turkish Government would not allow another event to jeopardise the Olympics if it was awarded them.
"In the Istanbul 2020 Application File, Turkey made a clear commitment not to host any other event around the 2020 Games," he told the audience, which included 50 voting members of the IOC.
Turkish officials today tried to claim that this latest development had no impact on their bid.
"Istanbul 2020 is aware of the news that the Turkish Football Federation has officially placed a bid for Euro 2020," they said in a statement.
"It is not unexpected news and it does not change any aspect of our bid; Istanbul 2020 and all its private and public sector stakeholders remain totally committed to bringing the Olympic and Paralympic Games to Turkey for the first time in 2020.
"Turkey's Prime Minister, every level of Government and every party is aligned behind the bid team and that unequivocal support will remain guaranteed throughout the bid process.
"Turkey has already guaranteed that if Istanbul is selected as the host city for the 2020 Olympic Games in September 2013, no other important national or international event will take place in Istanbul or its vicinity around the Games period.
"This guarantee would form part of the host city contract and has been personally endorsed by the Prime Minister.
"Istanbul 2020 is still 100 per cent focused on our top priority: proving to the Olympic family that Istanbul is a worthy Candidate City and making it onto the shortlist."
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