Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed for the first time this week that Erzurum, in the north-eastern mountainous region of the country, is preparing a bid to host the 2026 Olympic Winter Games.
Erdogan said in a speech that a plan with neighbours Erzincan and Kars is being developed that will leverage a new high-speed rail line that will connect the regions by 2023. Erzurum, the city that hosted the European Youth Olympic Winter Festival (EYOF) earlier this year, and previously the 2011 Winter Universiade, has existing infrastructure that could be upgraded to host the Olympic Games.
“We made the first step,” Erdogan said, according to Middle East Online in reference to the EYOF.
“With some small adjustments we can take this further.
“It would not be bad to have a bid along with Erzican and Kars. We are making such preparations for 2026.”
Bids for the 2026 Olympic Winter Games won’t be due until next spring with a final election set to be held in 2019. Sion in Switzerland this week confirmed that it will submit an application, and other cities including former hosts Calgary, Innsbruck, Lillehammer and Sapporo have been investigating the possibility. Other rumoured bids could come from Sweden and Almaty, Kazakhstan.
“We have still not been able to bring the Olympics to our country,” Erdoğan said at a meeting last month.
“Even though we deserved it, we were not given the Olympics.”
Istanbul has been one of the most aggressive, yet unsuccessful bid cities in recent years with five failed attempts to host the 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2020 Olympic Games. Most recently Istanbul shared the final ballot with Tokyo but lost the 2020 Games by a vote of 60 to 36.
“They gave it to the ones who would be hosting it for the second time, not who would host it for the first time,” Erdoğan said about the awarding of the Games to Tokyo after the Japanese city had already hosted in 1964.
Security will be a key concern if Turkey moves forward with the bid. Increased terrorism that was underlined by the New Year’s Day ISIS inspired attack on Istanbul’s Reina nightclub, and continued anti-government threats including last year’s failed coup will be considered by IOC voters.
A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.