The European Capitals of Sport Association (ACES) has elected Istanbul as European Capital of Sport for 2012. After holding the title of European Capital of Culture 2010, Istanbul fought off competition to be named European Capital of Sport by a unanimous decision. The ACES president, Gian Francesco Lupatelli, explained that Istanbul was chosen over its two main rivals following inspections at various sites, by a number of officials from the association.
The decision was announced in a press conference at the International Ataturk Airport in Istanbul and a certificate was presented to Turkey`s chief EU Negotiator, Egemen Bağış and Istanbul Mayor, Kadir Topbas, during the European Parliament`s meeting in November. Bağış stated that substantial work had been undertaken to promote Istanbul in the competition and that the appointment meant a lot for the people of the city and for increased communication with European cities. Topbas proposed that Istanbul would now look towards the Olympic Games. He stated that `intense endeavour` would continue on new infrastructure and sports facilities, which contributed to Istanbul securing the European Capital of Sport title, `because these steps will bring the Olympic Games to [Istanbul]`.
The purpose of the European Capital of Sports Award is to acknowledge and make a real commitment to, the role that sport plays in increasing the physical wellbeing of individuals, quality of life and promoting harmonious social relations. It encourages local administrations to fulfil an objective to improve the general health of its country`s inhabitants through sport and healthy recreation, with a focus on the more disadvantaged groups of society.
Sport is an extremely important feature of Istanbul life. Five of Istanbul`s football teams play in the National Premier League, with an impressive array of stadiums. Basketball is another popular sport, with two major arenas hosting games. Istanbul hosted the 2010 World Basketball Championship, in which the national team reached the final with USA, making Turkey the 2nd best basketball team in the world.
Motorsports are also much enjoyed by the people of Istanbul; Istanbul Park Racing Track has hosted Formula 1 races, as well as Moto GP and several other international motorsports, since it was built in 2005. Istanbul also has a large hippodrome and several ranches which host popular horse races throughout the year. There is an annual international marathon, which uniquely sees its participants cross between 2 continents across a suspension bridge, while Belgrade forest, lying to the north of the city, is very popular for jogging and recreation. There are also several tennis facilities and 3 golf courses which are very popular with tourists.
After enjoying the excitement of Istanbul why not enjoy a relaxing vacation at the resort of Olu Deniz which has one of the world`s most photographed beaches and a blue lagoon which are ideal for a variety of water sports, swimming and sunbathing. Staying at one of Olu Deniz hotels is a perfect way to end your visit to Turkey allowing you to experience both the laid-back culture of Olu Deniz and sporting life of Istanbul.