The World Championship soccer 2014 again showed us the power of sports. Within the Dutch foreign policy sports is playing its role, recently underlined by our minister of Foreign Affairs who referred to soccer diplomacy as a tool of foreign policy. At the Dutch Consulate in Istanbul we organized live screenings of six matches, attracting almost 5.000 guests.
Within this context we organized at the Consulate a thematic luncheon onSports in Turkey, attended by a number of experts. We also looked into the possibilities for Dutch business in the sports sector in Turkey. Thematic luncheons are organized in order to be better informed on a certain topic in Turkey.
The main conclusions.
For those who know Turkey well, it will not come as a surprise that this country does not have a sports culture as for example Scandinavia or the Netherlands have. “Mens sana in corpore sano” (a sound mind in a sound body) is not yet fully incorporated into the Turkish culture, nor is it object of a vigorous Government policy.
Sport lessons at school are limited and parents prefer additional homework hours to be spent on math than on sports. Going to sport is seen as a luxury good and demand is low, leading to high prices which in turn keeps away people who wish to do sports, but can not afford it.
Money and time should be spent on tuition to improve grades and to better prepare for the grueling examinations to enter university. These lessons are very expensive and leave most parents without money to spend on for sports.
When asked if one loves sports the answer will almost always be ‘yes’, referring in most cases to the hours spent on a couch or in a cafe, watching one of the many sports programs, not on actually doing sports 🙂 This situation is reflected on the top level, where Turkey is a main player in some sports only, like basketball, volleyball and wrestling, and to a lesser extent soccer.
The participants at our thematic luncheon agreed on two points: general sports culture in Turkey needs improvement and so does the climate for top sports. The participants also agreed that the overall situation in Turkey is getting better, but only very gradually and too slowly.
Istanbul’s candidacy to host the Olympics in 2020 was perhaps not without controversy, but it would have been a big boost to at least the policy and facilities for top sport. And in the longer run it would also have contributed to a better sports awareness.
Opportunities for Dutch businesses?
Everything related to healthy life style (foods, supplements, equipment for fitness, tourism related). Growing welfare in Turkey is leading to more attention for a healthy life style including fitness.
Technical cooperation on the level of coaching. In many sports the Netherlands have excellent coaches. Such cooperation would be long term investments, as we see in soccer where there is both a growing number of Dutch coaches and players in Turkey. Such cooperation would also be a long term investment in view of the Olympics (that are going to come to Istanbul one day, that is for sure).
Turkey offers great opportunities to organize special events, combining beautiful nature and cultural heritage with sportive activities. The Bosporus swimming event or the Van marathon are just two of many examples that could and should be followed by many others. All niche markets, but worthy to be explored and exploited. Such developments would be a win-win situation for all involved, for the organizers and participants and for the local economy.