Istanbul’s bid to host the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games gathered further momentum yesterday as the city hosted the final stage of the 49th Presidential Cycling Tour of Turkey (TUR), which saw Turkish rider, Mustafa Sayar, become the first Turkish cyclist to win the event since it was upgraded in 2008.
President of Turkey, Abdullah Gül, his wife, Hayrunnisa Gül, and Youth and Sports Minister, Suat Kılıç presented the awards to the winners. Sayar won the competition's most coveted award, the “Turquoise T-shirt.” The President described Sayar's victory as a “source of pride for Turkey.” He said that these types of events contribute to the global promotion of Turkey and are gradually preparing the country to host the Olympics, which he hopes to see in Istanbul in 2020.
Over 190 riders from 25 teams participated in the TUR, which included some of the top names in international cycling such as André Greipel and Marcel Kittel. The eight-stage tour took advantage of Turkey’s outstanding natural beauty, beginning in Alanya and moving west along the coast through Antalya – a proposed host for Olympic football in 2020. The race concluded in Istanbul, where fans lined the streets to show their support as riders crossed the iconic Bosphorus Bridge from Europe to Asia and finished in Bostancı.
Chairman of Istanbul 2020, Hasan Arat, commented on the success of the event:
“I would like to congratulate Mustafa Sayar on his historic win, but I would also like to thank everyone involved in making this race the special event that it is. The success of the tour reflects the steps that have been taken in Turkey over the last decade to position the country as a trusted and effective host of world sport events. The tour, which was rated 2.2 in 2006 by the International Cycling Union (UCI), is now one of only 17 road cycling events worldwide with a rating of 2.HC. It has become a major cycling event on the European tour and, as we have seen, it attracts professional cyclists from all over the world. The experience we have gained from hosting major events, particularly in Istanbul, will prove invaluable if we are awarded the honour of hosting the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“The support that the cyclists have received this week reflects Turkey’s passion for sport. This passion is matched by our commitment and desire to providing optimal athletic conditions for Olympic-standard athletes to perform. The race is a huge inspiration for our large young population which represents 31 million young people under the age of 25.”
The televised race was broadcast to 156 countries, reflecting the tour’s recent growth in popularity and international recognition. German rider, Marcel Kittel, in an interview after the race reflected this growing recognition:
“The Tour of Turkey is one of my favourite races. I love everything here, the relaxed atmosphere, the beautiful landscapes and the character of people. I can't wait to return to Turkey.”