By Duncan Mackay at the SportAccord Convention in Québec City

Hasan Arart_outside_IOC_in_LausanneMay 22 - Istanbul is still on target to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, insisting that staging the event is still more important to Turkey than football's European Championships, which have cast a shadow over its campaign.

The country's financial capital remain many people's favourites for the Olympics but have seen their candidature undermined by the Turkish Football Federation's decision to submit a bid for the European Championships in the same year.

It should not prevent Istanbul making it onto the shortlist when the ruling Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) meets here tomorrow to discuss which bids should be given Candidate City status.

But it is a topic that must be tackled quickly if it is not to derail the bid.

"For Turkey, hosting the Games has always been the ultimate prize," said Hasan Arat (pictured above centre), the vice-president of the National Olympic Committee of Turkey (NOCT), who is expected to be confirmed as the leader of the bid in the next few weeks.

"Every level of Government is right behind us, from the Prime Minister, Mr Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, right through to the municipal authorities.

"We have the full support of the sports and business communities, and we have 87 per cent public support – the people of Turkey want the Games."

This is Istanbul's fifth bid for the Olympics, having failed for the 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 Games.

But, thanks to the remarkable economic success of Turkey in recent years, this time their campaign is being taken much more seriously.

"Turkey has never been more serious about hosting the Games, and we have never been more ready to host the Games," said Arat.

"It is an exciting time for our country – we have had a decade of remarkable economic and social development, and now we are better placed than ever to realise our Olympic dream.

"The time is right for Istanbul 2020 in this campaign: we are in it to win it."

Arat was backed by Ugur Erdener, the President of the NOCT and a member of the IOC, who claimed that they can feel confident in a field that also contains Baku, Doha, Madrid and Tokyo.

"This is Istanbul's fifth bid, but the first time we have had the capacity to match our aspiration," said Erdener, who is also President of World Archery.

"Istanbul 2020 is the culmination of 20 years' bidding experience.

"Turkey has hosted more than 20 major sports events since 2004, and we have been learning and improving every step of the way.

"Now we have created a new, dramatically enhanced Games concept.

"We believe it meets the Olympic family's most pressing needs and priorities, and unites Turkey's designs for the future with the potential of our young, dynamic and ambitious population."

Hidayet Hido_Turkoglu_playing_for_Turkey
Istanbul's bid will be boosted here by the presence of Hidayet Türkoğlu (pictured), Turkey's basketball captain who plays for NBA's Orlando Magic, and Neslihan Demir Darnel, whose Turkish national volleyball team qualified for its first ever Olympic Games at London earlier this month.

The presence of Türkoğlu, popularly known as "Hedo", a member of the team which won silver medals at the 2010 European Championship, is a particular coup for Istanbul 2020.

He and Demir Darnel will also be supported by Ayda Uluç, the President of the Turkish Tennis Federation.

"Neslihan, Ayda and Hido are not here to wear badges and pose for photographs: they are here because they have been critical to the development of a bid that puts athletes first," said Arat.

"Their insight into the realities of playing sport at the highest level right now has helped us create a concept that guarantees the best conditions, the best competition and the best spectacle for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020."

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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