Turkey is on the last lap of its race against the clock to pull together one of the biggest sporting events in Europe.
The Mediterranean Games were controversially switched to the Turkish city of Mersin just one year ago, and now, six months out from the opening ceremony, officials are batting away speculation that facilities will not be completed in time.
“The preparation process which normally takes 7 years has been compressed into 18 months,” said Sports Minister Suat Kilic on his official website. But, like other Turkish officials, he is confident. “We will make it. There is no doubt about it.”
The Turkish government pushed hard to host the games, which are seen as important for the prestige of Mersin and the nation. Authorities hope that a successful Mediterranean Games will boost their bid for the 2020 Olympic Games to be held in Istanbul.
The Mediterranean Games are overseen by the International Olympic Committee and have been held every four years since 1951. At the games in June 2013, 4,000 athletes from 24 countries are expected to compete in 32 different sports including Paralympics.
Initially, the Greek towns of Volos-Larissa were awarded the hosting rights to the Mediterranean Games back in 2007, but then lost the rights in 2011 due to financial troubles. The controversial decision by the International Olympic Committee meant Mersin became the new host city.
The challenges facing Mersin are large. Eleven new facilities are being constructed including a 25,000 capacity stadium, a 7,500 capacity sports facility, a 3,000 capacity tennis complex, an Olympic swimming pool, two gymnasiums, 1,000 capacity volleyball facility, a bocce field, shooting and canoeing facilities, as well as 3,500 capacity Mediterranean Village for accommodations.
In addition there are ongoing renovations of existing facilities and roads.
“The facilities will be completed in March 2013 and the testing will start in May. No one needs to be worried about it,” said the General Coordinator of the Games Bekir Korkmaz. Korkmaz is an experienced bureaucrat, having led the 2011 International Winter Games in Erzurum Turkey. He was recently appointed after the former head stepped down due to the pressure, according to Dogan News Agency.
“Short notice to host the games has obviously had a negative impact. But we feel no pressure; we are very confident. Turkey is very capable country, ” Korkmaz told The Epoch Times.
Deputy General Coordinator Muhammed Adak believes recent speculation about whether they will complete everything in the squeezed time frame have actually been a boon. “The speculation increased the popularity of the games and created free advertising,” he told The Epoch Times, dismissing recent concerns about the construction of a major stadium.
Officials estimate 40,000 tourists will arrive in June and overall 200,000 spectators will be watching the games. Although there is no theme for the opening and closing ceremonies yet, the preparations will start soon. “Our ceremonies will be more creative than the ones in London,” said Korkmaz.
Three thousand people will be working in ceremonies and overall 15,000 people for the organization of the games. According to Korkmaz, the Turkish government has allocated 180 million Turkish lira (US$100 million) for organizational spending.
Mersin Provincial Director of Sports Ilhami Koc said that the government has allocated roughly 400 million Turkish lira ($220 million) for the construction and renovations of the sites, and he estimates that 5,000 laborers and engineers are working at sites seven days a week, 24 hours a day to meet the deadlines.
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