When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Olympics, No Thanks! Local Opposition Grows On Eve Of 2020 Host Announcement

Two weeks ahead of the naming of the 2020 Olympics location, as officials in Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo do last-minute bidding, protests rise in each city against the effects of hosting the Games.

Priority lane?
Priority lane?
Alpbugra Bahadir Gultekin

ISTANBUL - We will soon know who will host the 2020 Summer Olympics, and excitement is growing in the three finalist cities – Istanbul, Madrid, Tokyo – before the announcement in Buenos Aires on Sep. 7.

Istanbul’s dream of hosting the Olympics began in the 1990s with the slogan “Meet Where The Continents Meet.” But if that dream is deferred again, Egemen Bagis, Minister of European Union Affairs and Istanbul's chief advocate for the Games, has already identified the cause: “The Gezi Park protests are responsible if we do not get the Olympics,” he said in a recent speech, noting that there had been two public applications from Turkey against Istanbul’s candidacy.

Indeed, there are organized groups that do not want the Olympics in Istanbul, as well as Tokyo and Madrid. While there are minor differences among their answers, Olympic opponents in all three cities share many of the same trepidations if the Games come to town.


The capital of Spain also wanted to host the Summer Olympics of 2016 but lost out to Rio de Janeiro. Madrid's candidacy of 2020 has the unofficial slogan of ‘this time it is different,’ though Spain's economic crisis is the toughest hurdle for the city to overcome.

Indeed, the Olympics adversaries of Madrid have staged several protests, including one during the visit of the International Olympics Committee (IOC). The reason for the opposition is simple: money.

Domingo Patiño, a leader of PAH, one of the most active anti-Olympics groups in Spain, said a budget of $2.5 billion dolars will be spent for the games if Madrid becomes the host, which could eventually rise to $4 billion with additional costs. "This is a great burden for a city already so deep in debt,” he said.

Patiño recalled that Barcelona was the host of the 1992 Summer Olympics and argued the plans for the games will create “real estate chaos” in Madrid similar to what happened in the other Spanish city. “The Olympics were used as a tool for the urban renovation projects in Barcelona. People were evicted; facilities and hotels were erected where their homes used to be. And suddenly, real estate prices went through the roof," said.

The biggest supporters of the Olympics are not ordinary people, concludes Patiño, but "the real estate speculators and big construction companies.”


The Japanese capital was also a failed candidate for 2016, after spending $200 million during the application process. Yet despite the money spent, there are fewer Olympics adversaries in Japan than either Spain or Turkey.

Still, Mayoko Nagochi is from a group that organizes opposition on Facebook, focused on the economic consequences of hosting the Games: “The budgetary deficit of the country is rising constantly. The Olympics stadium alone costs $1.5 billion. These costs return to the people as taxes.”

Nagochi’s worries are not economic. If Tokyo is selected for the Games, the canoe races are to be held at the Kasai Water Park which is yet to be built. However, this area is on the migration path of many species of birds and a resting spot for some of them. The environment will be irrevocably damaged if the water park gets built there, says Nagochi.


The “No To Olympics” movement in Istanbul notes that the city's population is 15 million; it will be 18 million by 2020. It is already almost four times more than this geographical area can bear, and the most strategic positions of Istanbul are selected for the Olympic projects. The third bridge already started to damage the forests and water basins of Istanbul. The 420 square kilometers green land around the third bridge will be made available for construction with the excuse of the Olympics.

Members of the movement said the Olympics will be used as a tool to attract investors to the country, while the natural, cultural and historical heritage of the city will be destroyed in the process. “Countries are pulled into debt spirals with doubling Olympics budgets," the group said in a statement. "This will be a burden on the economy. We have seen the worst in Athens. One of the reasons of the unrest in Brazil is also such a budget.”

The anti-Olympic platform in Istanbul states: “Urban renovation is a disaster, bulldozer after bulldozer is advancing in neighborhoods…and forced evictions will be more violent. We know about the Olympics from the cities that hosted them with pride and excitement and afterwards were left with destroyed neighborhoods, heavy debts, displaced millions and facilities left to rot.”

So, what is the alternative offered by the platform? They recommend to learn from examples like the city of Chicago, which withdrew its candidacy. "We need our governments to spend time, energy and resources on the actual needs and problems of our cities," said the Turkish opposition group. "Instead of investing in Olympics, which enriches only the private entrepreneur, they should invest in a future for our children to lead a good and secure life. To the people who accuse us for putting the government in a hard position, we recommend to look at what has happened to the countries that hosted the Olympics.”

Protests for Soci 2014 and Rio 2016

While the Gezi Park events were ongoing in Istanbul, a similar reaction was growing in the streets of Brazil; the host country of the 2016 Summer Olympics. The protests against the increase of the public transportation fares transformed into reactions against the Olympics budget. And even for the Winter Olympics of 2014 to be held in the Russian city of Soci has been the target of criticism, though of a different nature: ethnic Circassians in the area who accuse Russia of genocide and LGBT organizations angry about a recent anti-gay law.

As protest movements of all kinds grow around the world, the next Olympic host announcement in less than two weeks will assign a "winner" to either Tokyo, Madrid or Istanbul. Be careful what you wish for...

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Palestinian Olive Trees Are Also Under Israeli Occupation — And That's Not A Joke

In the West Bank, a quieter form of oppression has been plaguing Palestinians for a long time. Their olive groves are surrounded by soldiers, and it's forbidden to harvest the olives – this economic and social violence has gotten far worse since Oct. 7.

A Palestinian woman holds olives in her hands

In a file photo, Um Ahmed, 74, collects olives in the village of Sarra on the southwest of the West Bank city of Nablus.

Mohammed Turabi/ZUMA
Francesca Mannocchi

HEBRON – It was after Friday prayers on October 13th of last year, and Zakaria al-Arda was walking along the road that crosses his property's hillside to return home – but he never made it.

A settler from Havat Ma'on — an outpost bordering Al-Tuwani that the United Nations International Law and Israeli law considers illegal — descended from the hill with his rifle in hand.

For the latest news & views from every corner of the world, Worldcrunch Today is the only truly international newsletter. Sign up here.

After kicking al-Arda, who tried to defend himself, the settler shot him in the abdomen. The bullet pierced through his stomach, a few centimeters below the lungs. Since then, al-Arda has been in the hospital in intensive care. A video of those moments clearly shows that neither al-Arda nor the other worshippers leaving the mosque were carrying any weapons.

The victim's cousin, Hafez Hureini, still lives in the town of Al-Tuwani. He is a farmer, and their house on the slope of the town is surrounded by olive trees — and Israeli soldiers. On the pine tree at the edge of his property, settlers have planted an Israeli flag. Today, Hafez lives, like everyone else, as an occupied individual.

He cannot work in his greenhouse, cannot sow his fields, and cannot harvest the olives from his precious olive trees.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest