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Turkey protests do not affect Istanbul 2020 Olympics bid

Published: Updated:

Violent protests that have hit Turkey over recent days need to end swiftly but will have no bearing on Istanbul's candidacy to host the 2020 Olympics, bid leaders said on Wednesday.

Riot police have cleared the Istanbul square at the center of almost two weeks of protest against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

“The feedback Istanbul 2020 has received from IOC (International Olympic Committee) members and the wider Olympic family continues to be positive and very understanding,” bid officials said in a statement.

“While they are obviously as keen as we are for a swift and peaceful resolution, the majority of people we have spoken to recognize that 2020 is still seven years away.”

Istanbul is bidding for the fifth time in the last six IOC votes for the summer Olympics with Japan's Tokyo and Spanish capital Madrid also in the running. The IOC will elect the winning bid in September.

Turkey's biggest city, whose bid is called “Bridge together”, has highlighted its location at the crossroads of Asia and Europe and is eager to become the first city of a majority Muslim country to land the world's biggest multi-sports event.

The city saw more fighting overnight with police in running battles with pockets of demonstrators, clearing Taksim Square which by dawn was strewn with wreckage from bulldozed barricades.

Several hundred protesters remained in an encampment of tents in nearby Gezi Park.

Erdogan, who has dismissed the demonstrators as “riff-raff”, was due to meet a group of public figures to discuss the unrest, which began as a peaceful campaign against plans to build on the park abutting the square.

“This situation will have no bearing on our ability to deliver our Games concept, which was designed after consultation with environmental groups and NGOs (non-governmental organizations),” Istanbul 2020 said.

“This is a bid for the people of Turkey and we are united by our passion to bring the Games here for the first time. Istanbul 2020, and the 20-year dream of the Turkish people, will not be affected by these events.”

Bid cities are due to attend a meeting of national Olympic Committees in Lausanne in Switzerland later this week with Istanbul planning to offer “assurances” there.

Bidders will also attend a key IOC meeting in Lausanne on July 3 to present their files to all members for the first time.