Istanbul’s Sports Showdown – the European Capital of Sport 2012

Turkey is on a hosting momentum. Having just put the European Capital of Culture 2010 to rest, Istanbul has nabbed itself another title for the trophy room. But what does being elected as the European Capital of Sport mean, exactly?

Well, for starters, it means that Istanbul has some pretty sweet sporting facilities: the Türk Telekom Arena, Atatürk Olympic Stadium and Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium have been built or renovated in the last eleven years, plus there are also three UEFA Elite Stadiums among the collection. High quality sporting facilities and event organisation certainly helped get the title, but what will they do with it?

So far, reports are a little hazy. City officials have said they would use the opportunity to make Istanbul one of the healthiest cities in the world. Definitely, there will be a huge push to provide opportunities to engage all of Istanbul’s residents in some type of sport. It will also involve building new sports facilities.

More interesting for visitors, however, is the huge selection of international sporting events that will be held throughout the year.

IAAF World Indoor Championships in Athletics: for track and field lovers, the 15th International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) competition will be held at the Ataköy Athletics Arena on March 9 -11.

Euroleague Final Four: this event will surely lure fanatical crowds to Istanbul in early May, as one of the top professional basketball games to watch. It’s been two-decades since Istanbul last held the event. In a scene of serendipity, the games will be held in the Sinan Erdem Dome that opened in 2010 to host the FIBA World Championships.

Bosphorus Cross Continental swim: this is an annual event that avid swimmers should not miss! Where else can you swim across two continents? It’s a 6-7km swim starting on the Asian side of Istanbul, moving across the Bosphorus, and finishing in Europe. It’s a frenzy of fun as you elbow for space among some 1000 swimmers. Check the website for finalised registration and competition dates – the limited spots can fill within a day ( www.bosphorus.cc). Usually held in June/July.

Intercontinental Istanbul Eurasia Marathon: another of Istanbul’s annual events that gives participants the bonus prize of walking across the Bosphorus Bridge. It’s the ONLY day of the year it’s allowed. And of course, it’s the only marathon to cross two continents. With reasons like these, it’s becoming popular for marathon runners (15km and 42km) and fun runners (8km) who just want to gawk at the amazing view. The 34th competition is scheduled for November 11, but registration opened on the 1st of January so sign up! (www.istanbulmarathon.org).

WTA Tour Championships: it’s the second of Istanbul’s three-year deal to host the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). The world’s top-ranked female players will battle for the title in the Sinan Erdem Arena.

FINA World Swimming Championships (short course 25m): it’s fast and furious, as international swimmers stroke out quick-paced events in a 25m pool. The 11th championship of the Federation Internationale de Natation (FINA) will be held at the Sinan Erdem Dome Istanbul from December 12-16.

Grand Prix axed: Istanbul has rejected hosting Formula One after fees doubled to stage the race (now a hefty $26 million).

And beyond…

Optimism is high that nabbing the sport title will play in Turkey’s favour for future sporting events.

Preparations for the 2013 Mediterranean Games: after Greece fell into financial troubles, the title was transferred to Turkey to host the 17th Mediterranean Games. The 10-day games will be held from June 24 to July 3, 2013 in Mersin, Turkey. More than 4,000 athletes from 24 countries are expected to rock up.

FIBA World Championship for Women: it appears Turkey has qualified to host the games in 2014. Turkey will go in the hall of fame for being the only country to host both the European and World Championships of basketball for men and women in the last 15 years.

Bid for 2020 Summer Olympics: four rejections have not deterred Turkey in bidding a fifth time for the Olympics. The process is still young, however, and Istanbul will find out if it passes the first phase to become an official candidate city on May 23, 2012. Turkey’s competitors are Baku, Doha, Madrid, Rome and Tokoyo. The final decision will be announced on September 7, 2013 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Meet the author


After leaving Australia in 2003, Casey's path landed her in Istanbul for a summer stint only. Once addicted to Istanbul's eccentricity and charm, Casey failed to find reason to leave six years later. An avid traveller of sorts, Casey spent most of her time roaming across Europe and the Middle East looking for adventure and cultural experiences. Now a freelance editor and writer working from Madrid, Casey spends her days finding the words to excite the inner traveller in everyone.