Turkey unrest triggers concern for Mediterranean Games

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Violent protests across several major Turkish cities since the end of May have raised concerns for the safety of the upcoming Mediterranean Games in the country’s coastal city of Mersin.

In a letter obtained by Reuters and addressed to 2013 Mediterranean Games organizers, the International Committee of Mediterranean Games (ICMG) is asking for security assurances and more information regarding the ongoing demonstrations.

“I am writing to express, on behalf of my colleagues, our great concern and sympathy for the unfortunate events that have occurred in Turkey,” ICMG secretary general Isidoros Kouvelos said in the letter addressed to Ugur Erdener, head of Turkey’s Olympic Committee and to Mersin Mediterranean Games organizers.

“As you understand, all the Mediterranean family finds this situation quite worrying, especially as the Opening of the Games of Mersin will be in a few days,” Kouvelos said in the letter dated 6 June.

Mersin will host the international multi-sports event between 20-30 June.

Istanbul, bidding to host the 2020 Olympics, has witnessed tens of thousands of people gathering in central Taksim Square, where protests began nine days ago.

The demonstrations have spread to several major cities, including the capital Ankara, with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warning that his patience is running out.

Western countries have held up Erdogan’s Turkey as an example of an Islamic democracy that could be emulated elsewhere in the Middle East but violent police action has drawn sharp criticism.

The Olympics-style Mediterranean Games are held once every four years, with some 24 countries from the Mediterranean basin competing in 27 sports, including athletics, swimming, gymnastics, football and basketball.

Mediterranean Games organizers could not be immediately reached for a comment.

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