Spanish IOC member questions Istanbul bid

Updated: July 10, 2013, 5:00 PM ET
Associated Press

MADRID -- A Spanish IOC member questioned why Turkish bid leaders have failed to show images of women wearing headscarves in Istanbul's presentations for the 2020 Olympics.

While declining to answer questions about security in Turkey on Wednesday, Marisol Casado instead raised the issue of women who wear head coverings in the predominantly Muslim country.

Istanbul is competing against Madrid and Tokyo for the 2020 Games, with the winner announced by the IOC on Sept. 7 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The three cities made closed-door presentations to IOC members last week in Lausanne, Switzerland.

"There was one question that was never addressed, and that is the number of women who wear the veil," Casado said at a news conference for Madrid's bid. "There was never an image of a woman wearing a veil in any of their presentation videos."

Turkey, a country on both the Asian and European continents, is governed by secular laws. It would be the first mainly Muslim country to host the Olympics if Istanbul wins in its fifth attempt.

"Anyone who visits Istanbul will be aware that around 30 percent of women there tend to wear veils," Casado said. "People who live in Arab nations are looking for something that will be more representative of their culture."

Casado's remark was reminiscent of a comment made by Tokyo Governor Noiki Onose in April when he compared his city to Istanbul by saying that the Turkish city was underdeveloped and less equipped to host the games than Tokyo.

Inose was also quoted as saying "the only thing (Muslim countries) share in common is Allah and they are fighting with each other, and they have classes."

The governor later apologized.

Under IOC bid rules, candidate cities are prohibited from criticizing rivals.

Casado spoke as Spanish IOC members gave an assessment of how Madrid's bid was shaping up.

Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr., accompanied by Jose Perurena and Casado, said Madrid's bid for the 2020 Olympics broke a long tradition of overspending to host the event.

"It's a new model," Samaranch said. "The Madrid Games would be good for the Olympic movement" because it puts forward the idea that games can be organized without massive spending.

Samaranch said it was more important to "use our brains instead of the wallet." He said hosting the games would also help Spanish sports and the country's economy as a whole. He said Madrid had "explained clearly that we want it and we need it."

Madrid has sought to present what it has labeled as a low-spend, responsible model, respectful of the 27 percent unemployment rate from the economic crisis.

Both Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Economy Minister Luis de Guindos have stated that the games posed no financial risk to Spain. Madrid has stressed that 80 percent of its proposed venues are ready and it will only need $1.9 billion to complete and burnish its Olympic infrastructure.

"We have limited funds," Samaranch said. "Our presentations have had to be very short and sometimes frustrating because of that."

Istanbul has defended its $19.4 billion infrastructure budget, while Tokyo has claimed a reserve fund of $4.5 billion to be used for the Olympics.

Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press

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