ISTANBUL (AP) — Istanbul's mayor warned Monday that prolonged protests in Turkey could turn the city's hopes of hosting the 2020 Olympics into a distant "dream."
Weeks of anti-government demonstrations in Istanbul and elsewhere in the country have largely subsided. However, with an IOC decision on the host city less than three months away, Kadir Topbas urged protesters not to persist with the demonstrations.
"We have now entered the final stages of the 2020 Olympic (bidding)," Topbas said. "If these (incidents) continue and there are problems, the 2020 games will be nothing but a dream."
"The (Turkish nation) stands to lose, Istanbul stands to lose. We all know who will gain," he said.
Istanbul is making its fifth bid for the Olympics and is competing against Madrid and Tokyo. The IOC, which will select the host city Sept. 7 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is scheduled to issue its evaluation report on the three cities' bids.
Images of violence during the protests — including police firing tear gas and water cannon at protesters — have tarnished Turkey's image and posed serious challenge for the Olympic bid.
The Istanbul bid committee has said that the feedback from IOC members and other Olympic officials has been positive and understanding.
The protests were sparked May 31 by a crackdown on environmental activists who opposed plans to remove trees and develop Istanbul's Gezi Park.