The annual Presidential Bicycling Tour of Turkey (TUR) has become, especially in the last 3-4 years, a well known and much talked about event. The name perhaps suggests a touristic tour, but the TUR is far from that. It is a professional race replete with some of the best cycling teams and cycling professionals in the world. As such, I would like to touch upon some of the main the elements that have made it such a successful project.
This years’ 47th edition makes the TUR the oldest and largest annual international sports organization in Turkey. Running along a band between Istanbul and Alanya, the TUR consists of 8 day stages covering over 1300 kms. Bicycle races, as we see at the Tour de France, the Giro D’Italia, and Vuelta of Spain examples, are the only sports which can promote the nation’s history and natural wonders. Because of the distance covered, the variety of landscape passed, and a range of intermediate cities on the route, these races offer fantastic opportunities for promoting with good filming.
Using this as rationale, starting from 2008, the TUR was transformed from a mid-level amateur race to a top level professional competition. TV production and TV rights agreements were signed for live coverage. A total of 2 helicopters, 1 aircraft, 4 motorcycles and 12 ground cameras were used for the first ever live HD airing, making it the first ever stage bicycle race produced in HD.
After the success of the 2008 edition, an even larger participation ensued in 2009 with EUROSPORT INTERNATIONAL airing live coverage of the race 2 hours a day to 123 countries in 28 languages. After the notable successes of these first 2 years editions, and following the timely petition of the Turkish Cycling Federation, the International Cycling Federation accepted our request to include the TUR in the HC category , thus making it one of the 14 most prestigious bicycle races in the world. As a consequence the 2010 and 2011 editions attracted participation from some of the best professional teams and racers in the world bringing the TUR, after only 4 short years of life, a trademark of international repute. For a yearly organization requiring consistency and stability, to achieve that kind of success in a country like Turkey not known for those characteristics, is no small feat.
Supported with great sincerity at all levels of Turkish society and embraced with enthusiasm by the local population, I believe that the interest generated by this race and the sport in general is surpassed – in terms of spectators- only by football. In my opinion – an opinion I have insistently defended- the TUR also serves as the largest tourism campaign in Turkish history. If we examine that statement carefully, I hope that I will be proven correct.
If we consider that one of the most watched TV channels on the planet is showing 17 hours of Turkeys most beautiful and scenic areas in HD, and that the images are being aired live in all their majesty to 123 countries around the world, the monetary value alone of such publicity is incalculable. Eurosport channel airs directly into 250 million homes around the world. The 8 consecutive day coverage thus ensures that images of Turkey, even if for a few seconds, reach up to 1 billion people. Let’s not forget too that interest for bicycling competitions in Europe is very high. Add to that fact that 100 plus local and foreign press representatives follow the race and that the race details reach the greater public via internet, the extent of the publicity involved becomes clear.
Beyond the publicity angle, the TUR, according to data provided by the Cycling Federation, has contributed to unbelievable growth in all areas related to cycling. More bicycles have been sold, more people are riding bicycles, more athletes have become licensed to compete at all levels, more municipalities have been trying to build cycling paths, and for the first time in our history bicycle producers have become large scale sponsors for bicycling related activities.
The 48th annual TUR that will run between April 22-29, 2012 will be blessed with a proven international trademark, a great organization, consistent support from the government and state institutions, dedicated teams willing to sacrifice time and effort, unparalleled (for an amateur sport event) media coverage, and mass public interest. The only thing shortcoming, and this something shared by most other amateur sports, is the lack of a dependable institutional sponsor for the project!
Aydin Ayhan Güney
Cumhurbaşkanlığı Türkiye Bisiklet Turu Organizasyon Direktörü