ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey’s president, who has angered European allies with charges of fascism and anti-Turkish skullduggery, took grievances to the sporting arena on Monday, accusing the International Olympic Committee of playing tricks to stop Istanbul hosting the event.
Since the early years of his political career, Tayyip Erdogan has longed to bring the Olympics to Turkey, making it the first predominantly Muslim country to stage the event. Turkey has had five failed bids in the last six votes.
“We may not have been able to bring the Olympics to our country yet, but you also know about the tricks being played here… I’ve experienced it myself,” he told an International soccer summit in Istanbul, without specifying what the tricks might be.
“They did not give us the Olympics even when we had the right. They gave the Olympics for the second time to those who hosted it before.”
Erdogan has sought to raise Turkey’s international profile and influence, not shrinking from conflict with allies.
This month, he has accused Germany of backing a network he blames for a failed coup and charged the Netherlands and Germany with fascism in banning Turkish politicians campaigning with Turkish expatriates for a referendum on new presidential powers. Europe, he says, is mired in racism.
In 2013, Tokyo won the 2020 Games, beating rival bids from Istanbul and Madrid. Turkey’s chances were seen as having been dented by mass anti-government protests in Istanbul.
Erdogan, who previously served as mayor of Istanbul, said Turkey had proven its ability to host major events, adding its sports infrastructure had grown dramatically in his 14 years in national government.
Turkey hosted the European Youth Olympic Festival in its eastern province of Erzurum in February 2016. The event marked the first time Turkey hosted the event in 25 years.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by David Dolan and Ralph Boulton)