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Protests no threat to Istanbul's Olympic bid: Arat

International Olympic Committee (IOC) Vice President and Chairman of the IOC Evaluation Commission Craig Reedie (R), accompanied by Hasan Ar
International Olympic Committee (IOC) Vice President and Chairman of the IOC Evaluation Commission Craig Reedie (R), accompanied by Hasan Ar

By Karolos Grohmann

(Reuters) - Weeks of anti-government protests that have rocked Turkey pose no threat to Istanbul's bid to land the 2020 Olympics, the city's bid chief said.

"Turkey's youth is exercising its democratic right to stage peaceful protests," Istanbul 2020 Games bid chief Hasan Arat said in a conference call with international news agencies.

"I am actually very proud of young people standing up for their beliefs."

Arat was speaking after the International Olympic Committee released a technical report on the three bid cities -- Tokyo and Madrid are the others -- before a decision in September.

Istanbul is bidding for the fifth time in the last six elections. The government's support and ability to deliver on construction were noted in the report which was drafted before the start of the demonstrations.

Protests swept Turkish cities after police used teargas and water cannon to disperse a demonstration against the redevelopment of an Istanbul square. Two weeks of anti-government protests and clashes with police have left four people dead, including a policeman, and about 7,500 injured.

Protests have lessened but police fired water cannon to disperse thousands in Istanbul's Taksim Square on Saturday and used tear gas in clashes with groups in surrounding streets.

"I don't think it (protests) will continue for a long time because their message is very well received," said Arat. "There have been some pictures which we did not want to see.

"But it happened and we look forward to a better Turkey, better understanding, better democracy. These people care about their country and standing up for their beliefs," said Arat.

"I feel confident for our bid for the next 75 days."

The IOC will elect the winning city at its session in Buenos Aires in September.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; editing by Robert Woodward)

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