ISTANBUL – A groan went out in the old city of Istanbul where hundreds of hopeful Turks heard the announcement Saturday that Tokyo had been chosen to host the 2020 Olympics.
Istanbul’s failed bid was a blow to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had flown to Buenos Aires to make the case straight from the Group of 20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Turkey, an early favorite, seemed to falter in June when the government clashed violently with protesters. Istanbul’s bid may also have been hurt by a string of doping scandals among Turkish athletes and the uncertainty of neighboring Syria’s civil war.
Rafet Pacali, an Istanbul resident, said the repeated rejection for Istanbul in its fifth bid was difficult to take.
“They just don’t want to give it to us,” he said, while sparing some optimism. “Next time hopefully, if it’s meant to be.”
The city was prepared to celebrate where large TV screens were put up in front of the sixth-century former church of Haghia Sophia. Music blared and red and white Turkish flags waved. The crowd was ecstatic when just over an hour before the final announcement they watched the International Olympic Committee declare that Istanbul had beaten out Madrid to reach a final round of voting against Tokyo.
But when the final announcement was made after 11 p.m. in Istanbul, a brief sound of disappointment gave way to silence and the crowd quickly dissipated. Tokyo had defeated Istanbul 60-36 in the final round of secret voting.