Istanbul for 2012

Hosted by

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW and this is The Score.

Mayor Bloomberg is leading the New York celebration this week as The Big Apple has made it into the final round of five cities hopeful to host the 2012 Olympic Games. The International Olympic Committee has now whittled down the selection to a final five. Madrid, Moscow, London, Paris and New York. And the euphoria in NY is understandable. First and foremost because this city, recently devastated, now gets the chance to showcase its beauty and its grandeur as the place where Olympians compete with honor. It seems a fitting and just post 9/11 boost of morale for people who have suffered such loss.

Second, it is almost inconceivable that New York, one of the great cities of the Western World, has never before hosted the Games. Third, the bid to become host city is long and arduous. New Yorkers fought for several years first to become the American city to go up against the rest of the world. Then the international competition began. Millions of dollars, hundreds of people, have hustled to sell their fair city-s assets to the IOC for the last five years. So to make it into the final round is cause itself for celebration. And last, but certainly not least, New Yorkers thirst for the new swimming pools and expanded parks and all the city improvements that come with the multi-billion-dollar budget of putting on an Olympics--and enhance the city for decades afterwards.

I personally would be very happy to see the Games land in New York City in 2012. It-s just that I can-t help feeling the IOC made a major gaff in passing up one of the other cities under consideration.

That was Istanbul.

Havana was also passed up. A wonderful concept, given Cuba-s astounding Olympic performance history, but the facilities weren-t anywhere near the capacity needed for an Olympics. Until this week, Rio de Janeiro was also in the running. Also an intriguing choice in that the Games have never been held in any South American city. If the Games are supposed to be a metaphor for global harmony, it-s out of whack that over 80% of all Olympics have taken place in either North America or Europe.

But imagine majestic Istanbul. The centuries-old link between East and West. Given the world climate at this juncture in history, what an inspired message it would send to hold the event with the ancient custom of ceasing all wars on the planet for the three weeks of noble competition in a country that is largely Muslim and operates as a voting democracy. To my mind, Istanbul stands out as the obvious choice for today-s Olympics.

Back in 2002, the IOC was busted for their long-standing practice of accepting bribes in exchange for choosing Olympic sites through an investigation of the Salt Lake City winter Games. That corrupt system is now supposedly broken down and the whole IOC contingency no longer wines and dines in potential cities. But, still, the big European cities, and obviously the big American cities, are the desirables in terms of both corporate sponsors and American television broadcasters.

On one hand, it-s heartening to see that, despite drugs and professionalism and other factors that have threatened to tarnish the shine of the Olympic rings, cities all around the world still revere the Games and fight hard to brand themselves with the Olympic image. On the other hand, business and profit do seem to win over pure sport and fair, worldwide competition. Otherwise, Istanbul would still be in the hunt for 2012.

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW. And that-s The Score.



Diana Nyad