EVENTS / istanbulogy / MUSIC / VIDEO / October 10, 2013

Istanbul’s bid for the Olympics



I was one of those who cheered when the host country for the Olympics 2020 was announced. Tokyo!!! Phew! My home city was kinda saved in a way for another decade. Being an anti-Olympic is not a new issue: reckoning the budget and ramifications, some cities  hesitate and withdraw their bid for the candidacy. But, here it did not take long for us to be labeled as traitors. As an Istanbullite, I shall have the right to not want to host the Olympic games because I do care for this city.

Losing out to Tokyo has hurt the Turkish pride; the same sentiment pervading the air every time we perform poorly in the cheesy Eurovision contests. The absolute monarchy died long ago so did the constitutional monarchy but the p. minister who by his nature takes everything personally was roaring the next day “They are cutting their ties with the Islamic world” -treading into the dangerous waters. And long before the announcement was made, the culprit was already revealed by the ministers: “If istanbul’s bid is to fail, it is on the part of the Gezi protests!” Yes, but in a different way.

The Olympics, now a poor symbol of peace, took place in Olympia, western Greece for the first time in the 8th century B.C. to promote peace between warring ancient city-states. Considering the current stance of Turkey in the region’s complicated dynamics, I wonder if a war-mongering country is eligible to light the torch. Is it possible to live up to the promises it has been making- bridging the cultures and continents? Is it a city of tolerance -a crippled word, I believe- as people love bragging about? are we capable of bridging diverse cultures within our country? not very likely, I suppose. with the war breathing down on our neck, I find it ironic to place a bid to host the games. nevertheless, historically speaking, everybody has bloody hands to cleanse.



What would being a host to the olympics games have cost us? The urban regeneration projects of the present government, which has created its own middle and upper class benefiting from their policies and leanings, have already cost a lot in terms of urban planning. A monstrous concrete city turning into an Ecumenopolis. (watch the trailer of Ecumenopolis here) now, at least, there is  one less pretext to continue the ongoing gigantic construction spree in the city. The plans for the Olympic city unfortunately included the historical peninsula- does a 2,700-year- old city need more construction? With the urban sprawling expanding to the north of the city, do we need to sacrifice more greens spots for the sake of the Olympics expecting money to pour into the economy? As a matter of fact, is the money pouring in or are the games just expensive indulgences that drag many countries’ economies into debt? Another counter-argument we cannot shy away from is the displacement of millions of people in the host cities all around the world. The real-estate speculations give way to skyrocketing rents and speed up urban regeneration projects, which eventually drive the poor out of the city. And believe me it’s already happening here.

Watching the promotion video commissioned by the current government & produced by their pr company left me speechless as it did many people. One of the prominent journalists of the turkish media, Can Dündar, tweeted as such “After having watched the promotion movie, I concluded there are two different Turkeys and I definitely live in the wrong one”, which, I believe, summarizes the problem of misrepresentation. It is no more than a flimsy promotional videos of the Eurovision contest.

To my surprise, Rihanna’s voice is superimposed onto the ezan- the call to the prayer. We are taught to turn down the music out of respect when the ezan starts; how come her voice suppresses the call to the prayer? What’s Rihanna doing there? Is there no turkish pop singer to promote my city?  And sorry, we do not start the day with freshly brewed coffee, rather strong fresh brewed tea as red as the color of rabbit’s blood. Ballet considered immoral as it too much reveals the body -the very words of the p. minister- has somehow managed to find its way to the video, which is very surprising. As for the girls involved in sports, the achievements of female volleyball players can hardly make it to the headlines in the media. Very surprised to see them represented there.  On the other hand, it is true that riding a bike has made an enormous leap in the past years, yet many car drivers sadistically enjoy giving a hard time to bike riders.

I  also look out for things unrepresented: In developing countries like mine, the only thing that entertains the poor souls here is running after a cheap ball. Football is the most available and accessible sport that young people could identify themselves with. I even remember myself as a young girl sneaking into the football games of boys at night matches. And the red splashes of balls on my arms or legs that boys kick. That was one of the ways to mingle with the boys:) Here in the movie, no boys appear playing football in the streets of Istanbul ghettos. In the mornings, I see many old ladies in headscarves doing gymnastics or running in the parks. Where are they in the movie? Why don’t we get to see one fashionable young lady with a  headscarf sipping tea or coffee? Isn’t it very ironic that it is the Gezi Park profile that they are trying to earn credits with? Still, we lost it.

No… it would not have awarded my home city. I am glad we lost it out to Tokyo…



Tags:  Can Dündar celebrities coffee Diamonds in the sky Ecumenopolis ezan Gezi park Greece memories Olympics photo essays promotion video Rihanna sports urban transformation

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