Euro 2024 bid chief: 'High time' for Turkey to host major tournament
The head of the Turkish bid for the 2024 European Championships has said it is "high time" his country was given the chance to host a major event.
Having failed with three previous bids for the Euros and a campaign to host the 2020 Olympics, Turkey is up against a strong bid for the European tournament from Germany.
Speaking to reporters in London, Turkish Football Federation vice-president Servet Yardimci admitted losing to France by one vote in 2010 for the 2016 Euros was "upsetting" but it made Turkey more determined to try again.
In fact, Yardimci revealed that European football's governing body UEFA offered Turkey the chance to host the last three games of Euro 2020, which is being shared by 12 different countries as a one-off to mark the 60th anniversary of the competition -- but said no.
"We were given the semi-finals and final in 2020 to host but we said we'd like to do the whole tournament, so we politely declined," said Yardimci.
That decision opened the door for Wembley, which is now hosting seven of the 51 games in two summers' time. Turkey, on the other hand, wants all 51 in 2024.
Yardimci listed the major finals Turkey has hosted, including Liverpool's memorable 2005 Champions League win over AC Milan, and said its clubs, fans, league and stadiums proved the country "is ready now" for a large summer tournament.
He also pointed to Turkey's improving infrastructure and historic position as a bridge between Europe and Asia as evidence of the commercial opportunities a Turkish Euro 2024 would present.
"Turkey will take great pride in being able to deliver the best ever Euros -- that's what we're saying to UEFA and we mean it," said Yardimci, a member of UEFA's executive committee.
"We've never hosted it, it's our fourth bid and we're saying it's high time.
"Germany is a powerful country, and a great opponent, but Turkey is also a strong nation and maybe we can deliver a better tournament than them."
Asked if Turkey was prepared for the increased scrutiny that hosting a major event brings, Yardimci said the country had nothing to fear, adding that it complied with all United Nations treaties.
A failed coup d'etat against Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016, however, led to a crackdown on press freedom and political opposition.
The ongoing fallout has forced former Turkish striker Hakan Sukur to live in California in exile after he moved into politics and criticised Erdogan. There is also the long-running tension with Turkey's Kurdish minority and the small matter of Syria on its southern border.
Yardimci dismissed these concerns, saying Turkey is a country of 80 million people and you cannot draw conclusions from one man's disagreement with the president. He added that the inclusion of the southern city of Gaziantep in the bid was not a risk as it recently hosted the Turkish cup final.
He also said the possible bid from Turkish resort Erzurum for the 2026 Winter Olympics would not be a distraction.
"It would be OK -- we have the capacity to host two big events. We are ready to host the Euros now," he said.
UEFA will vote on the German and Turkish bids in Nyon on Sept. 27.