Ali Koç

Istanbul 2020's triple-play up-day

ISTANBUL -- Olympic bids are generally an exercise in crisis management. Rarely do you get a triple-play up-day like Istanbul's 2020 Summer Games campaign engineered Monday.

For starters, the International Olympic Committee's evaluation commission made public poll results that showed 83 percent of local residents support the Games, 76 percent nationwide.

The 83 percent is not only the highest of the three cities in the 2020 campaign -- Madrid and Tokyo are also in the race -- but also marks a 10 percent jump from a similar IOC poll last year.

Next: Istanbul unveiled its new bid slogan, "Bridge Together," the country's sports minister, Suat Kiliç, asserting that it highlighted the city's role as a "bridge between East and West, Europe and Asia, between civilizations, faiths and religions."

Finally: a leading Turkish businessman, Ali Koç, a board member of Turkey's Koç Holding conglomerate, said the nation's business leaders were ready to "help one of the most important projects in Turkey's history," adding that the country is "truly experiencing a "dramatic transformation."

So what is the import of all this?

Turkey's sports minister, Suat Kiliç, reveals the Istanbul 2020 bid slogan // photo courtesy Istanbul 2020

IOC evaluation commission and Istanbul 2020 officials checking out the local sports sites // photo courtesy Istanbul 2020

No one knows. This is all, if you will, positioning. If this were a U.S. presidential election, it would be primary season. The real deal is yet to come.

The IOC will select the 2020 winner Sept. 7 in balloting in Buenos Aires.

Istanbul is bidding for a fifth time, after tries for the 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 Games. This is Madrid's third straight bid, and Tokyo's second in a row.

Tokyo's poll showed 70 percent local support, up 23 points from 47 percent last year, the evaluation commission said when it was there earlier this month. Madrid got 76 percent local support in its IOC poll, a figure officials there last week said was evidence of the power of the Games to move people emotionally amid the economic hard times that have battered Spain.

Margin of error, survey methodology and other data are due to be provided when the evaluation commission report is made public in advance of the IOC's all-members meeting on the 2020 race at its Lausanne, Switzerland, base.

Also hard to know is what difference, if any, the slogans make. Tokyo's is "Discover Tomorrow." Madrid's: "Illuminate the Future."

Amid the drumbeat of public-relations good vibe for Istanbul, there was this intriguing note from Tokyo:

Carl Lewis, winner of 10 Olympic medals, nine gold, said in appearance there that he hoped Tokyo would win for 2020. Both Associated Press and Reuters deemed the story newsworthy; moreover, AP distributed a 690-word take, which in today's web-oriented environment made for a remarkably long story.

Clearly, Carl Lewis generates press. Of course, no one knows whether there's a shred of evidence that he moves votes in the IOC one way or the other.