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Violent Protests Threaten Istanbul 2020 Bid; Demonstrations in Madrid, Tokyo

posted Jun 20, 2013, 1:55 PM by erodriguez@softballpr.net   [ updated Jun 20, 2013, 2:03 PM ]
 

6/3/2013

With Istanbul braced for a fourth day of violent anti-government protests, the Turkish Olympic bid has been forced into damage limitation mode.

Anti-austerity protests in Madrid and a demonstration against nuclear power in Tokyo have also put Istanbul’s rivals on high alert.

 

The violence continued today in Istanbul, with Turkish police forces clashing with protesters in the Besiktas district of the city in front of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s office.

Reports from Istanbul said police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse Turkish protesters in the worst night of violence since the demonstrations began three days ago, sparked by plans to turn a city park into a shopping center.

By Sunday, the wave of protests that began after police intervened in a peaceful environmental protest in Istanbul’s Taksim Square –involving thousands of people – had spread across Turkey, including the capital, Ankara.

Turkish media said the protests had become directed at Erdogan's Justice and Development Party and his attempts to impose conservative Islamic values and infringe on people’s freedoms. More than 1,700 people were arrested in 67 towns for their part in the unrest.

President Abdullah Gül called for calm after the demonstrations in Taksim Square had turned violent. Erdogan accused the opposition Republican People's party of provoking the unrest.

“Istanbul 2020 is monitoring the regrettable situation regarding the demonstrations in Istanbul very carefully,” the Turkish bid said in a statement.

“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.”

It claimed that despite the violent protests, “all sections of Turkey remain united in our dream to host our nation’s first ever Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020… there is a common desire to unite in the Olympic spirit and show the world that we can work together for a better Turkey.”

IOC presidential candidate Denis Oswald claimed on Monday that the protests wouldn’t hurt the bid “for the time being”.

“I don’t think it would necessarily affect the candidature,” he told a news conference in Lausanne during the unveiling of his manifesto.

“We are still three months away from the decision,” he added, cautioning “It will depend if this continues and develops.”

The protests come at a key time in the race for the 2020 Olympics – it’s now less than 100 days until the 2020 host city vote at the IOC Session in Buenos Aires on Sept. 7.

Last Thursday, Istanbul presented its campaign message to SportAccord delegates, which included dozens of IOC members who will take part in the secret ballot.

Istanbul’s bid team put the emphasis on the country’s thriving economy and an opportunity for the IOC to take the Games to a new territory. In the wake of the protests, and the parallels being drawn with the Arab Spring unrest over the last two years, bid chief Hasan Arat’s line that Turkey was bidding as “an emerged nation” now perhaps sounds less convincing.

Madrid Demonstrations
The Spanish government’s economic policies and the country’s mass unemployment triggered a peaceful protest in Madrid on Saturday.

Thousands marched through the city center calling for the government to resign amid austerity cuts and record 27.2 percent unemployment.

Anti-austerity protests were held in other Spanish cities including Barcelona, Bilbao and Valencia.

Last week at SportAccord, the Madrid 2020 bid attempted to dispel concerns around the Spanish economy. Bid CEO

Victor Sanchez had said the bid was “prudent, efficient and responsible… it leaves nothing to chance.”

Anti-nuclear Protests in Tokyo

Some 7,500 demonstrators protested the possible restarting of nuclear reactors in Tokyo on Sunday.

 

They marched through the city and chanted anti-nuclear messages outside the offices of Tokyo Electric Power Co. TEPCO is the operator of the Fukushima nuclear power plant that suffered meltdowns of three reactor cores following the devastating earthquake in March 2011.

The earthquake and tsunami killed 19,000 people, with about 150,000 residents of the Fukushima area displaced because of the meltdowns.

Despite a promise by the Japanese government to fully abandon nuclear power by the 2030s, a U-turn followed within a year. Two nuclear reactors were restarted earlier in 2013 with another six set to follow in the coming months, AFP reported.

Reported by Mark Bisson