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Turks left looking for answers after fifth Games rejection

By Ece Toksabay and Humeyra Pamuk

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Disappointed and disillusioned Turks have begun the now-familiar routine of trying to understand why the IOC again overlooked their bid to host the Olympics over two continents after Istanbul was beaten by Tokyo in the race to host the 2020 Games.

Crowds in Istanbul's historic Sultanahmet Square, where the decision was broadcast live on big screens in front of hopeful hundreds, rolled up their flags and prepared to leave as the city was comprehensively beaten by the Japanese capital after Madrid was knocked out after the first round.

Once the result was announced and Istanbul had failed for the fifth time to land the Games, the inquest began.

Civil unrest, the unstable political situation on the country's doorstep and a wave of high-profile athletics doping cases are seen as the chief culprits for the IOC's decision to overlook Turkey again after Istanbul failed to land the 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 Games.

While the unrest in neighbouring Syria was seen by some as counting against the bid, others felt a heavy-handed police crackdown during recent anti-government protests were also instrumental in dampening Turkey's image.

"Consider how police reacted to peaceful protests in Istanbul. What if some crowd problem occurred during the Olympics? Would we pepper spray the international audience? With this image, it's only natural that we didn't get it, and now it's time to look in the mirror," Nurhan Aslan, 37, sales manager at a textile business said.

The unrest nationwide left four people dead, including a policeman, and injured thousands, denting many Turks' confidence in their ability to win the Olympic bid.

Another growing worry for Istanbul has been the wave of doping cases which have resulted in the Turkish Athletics Federation banning dozens of athletes for drugs violations, most recently double European 100m hurdles champion Nevin Yanit.

Whatever the reasons, the IOC's decision was a huge blow to sports fans and proud Turks desperate to showcase their country.

"I cannot believe the committee missed an opportunity to start the marathon at one continent and end it in another," said civil engineer Kadir Gulmez, 32.

"Or say the triathlon athletes swimming across two continents. It would be epic. A perfect chance to make it historic. Turkey should have got this one."

(Additional reporting by Murad Sezer, Writing by Humeyra Pamuk, editing by Mitch Phillips)

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