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Olympics:Syrian crisis not a threat to Istanbul bid: IOC members

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Istanbul's chances of winning the right to host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games have not been harmed by the fallout of the bloody civil war in Syria according to several International Olympic Committee members (IOC) on Thursday.

The IOC members will vote in Buenos Aires on Saturday as to which of Istanbul, Tokyo or Madrid will host the Games.

Wolfgang Maennig, a sports economics specialist from Hamburg University, said the brutal civil conflict in Turkey's neighbour Syria, which has seen more than two million people flee the country - including 500,000 to Turkey - according to the United Nations, could sway members away from choosing Istanbul.

However, Singapore IOC vice-president Ng Ser Miang, a candidate to succeed outgoing IOC President Jacques Rogge, said he hadn't sensed fellow IOC members getting nervous over the situation.

"Current events do play a role but the world is an ever changing place and who knows what it will be like in seven years time, it is a vote for the future not just about the present," he told AFP.

French IOC member Guy Drut also dismissed it as affecting the chances of Istanbul.

"I don't see why it should be a problem," said the 1976 110 metres hurdles Olympic champion and a former Youth and Sports Minister.

Two other IOC members speaking under condition of anonymity also said that there was no reason for Istanbul to suffer from the Syrian issue.

Rogge himself had addressed the question in a more general sense on Wednesday at his farewell solo press conference when he was asked whether he was saddened that geopolitical concerns were brought into the bid race.

"I'm not sad these questions are raised," he said.

"However, the Games will be held in seven years time and I believe that the members will look forward and not just at what is happening today."

Istanbul bid chief Hasan Arat, who is leading the best and most dynamic of the five bids the city has put up for an Olympic Games, told AFP on Thursday that the Syria situation was not causing him to worry about losing votes.

"I think that this is a matter for the political leaders to discuss and make decisions at the G20 summit in St Petersburg, Russia," said Arat.

"I think they will find a solution on that topic.

"There is seven years to go to the 2020 Olympic Games and this is such a big opportunity for the region, for the Olympic Movement and for the youth of the region.

"I am very optimistic."

Turkey, a NATO member that broke off a previously warm relationship with Syria, supports a multilateral intervention against the country after an August 21 chemical attack near Damascus that left hundreds dead, which the West has accused Assad's regime of perpetrating.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan - who will lead the deleagtion at the final presentation to IOC members on Saturday - reiterated only on Tuesday his country would support any coalition willing to intervene against the Syrian regime.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130905/olympicssyrian-crisis-not-threat-istanbul-bid-ioc-members