ISTANBUL: Mayor of Istanbul metropolitan municipality, Ekrem Imamoglu (center) speaks during a launch event to announce a new sport strategy and future sport plan yesterday in Istanbul. – AFP

ISTANBUL: The mayor of Istanbul yesterday said he wanted the ancient Turkish city to host the 2036 Summer Olympics after a failed bid for the pandemic-delayed 2020 Games. The fabled capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires boasts strong infrastructure and the distinction of bridging Europe and Asia along the Bosphorus Strait.

But it also suffers from stifling heat and humidity in the summer as well as traffic nightmares for its 15.5 million residents. "Our objective is (to host) the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2036," Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamoglu told reporters. "I am convinced that we will win."

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is expected to name the Australian city of Brisbane -- the only candidate -- as the host of the 2032 Summer Games before the Tokyo Olympics launch later this month. A formal bid could potentially boost the political standing of the popular mayor of Turkey's largest city. Imamoglu is a prominent member of the main opposition party who has become a thorn in the side of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The long-serving Turkish leader is a fan of sports diplomacy who spearheaded unsuccessful efforts to host the 2020 Games as well as the Euro 2024 football championship that will be played in Germany. Those defeats deprived Erdogan of the chance to oversee new construction projects and brandish Turkey's achievement before the next scheduled election in 2023.

Imamoglu wrested control of Istanbul from Erdogan's ruling party in 2019 and is mentioned as one of the possible challengers in the presidential election campaign. The two men's bitter rivalry lowers the chances of Erdogan supporting Istanbul's candidacy. No government ministers attended Imamoglu's formal campaign launch event. The IOC has not yet started the formal bidding process but cities including London have expressed early interest. - AFP