April ‘BoniBlog — Turkey with all the fixings … and more

By John Iaboni, Sports Media Canada Special Correspondent

Admittedly my planned trip to Antalya, Turkey was literally up in the air in recent weeks following the volcanic eruptions in Iceland. Thankfully for me – but more so for the thousands stranded – the situation improved and air space over Europe was once again open for air travel.
I’m here representing Sports Media Canada at the 73rd AIPS Congress and to assist the AIPS office just as I did at the Vancouver Olympics. There’s some apprehension as this Congress, running from April 28 through May 2, gets set to begin just because I’m wondering what the tone of these sessions will be.
The world of journalism is fast changing and in the age of new media, the role most of us knew as reporters is in a precarious state. Newspapers are folding or, if they remain, jobs are being lost or streamlined. Is that prevalence in North America also a global phenomenon? New media is on the agenda here so we’ll find out what others think.
What I can tell you on the upbeat, though, is that this country is thrilled to be hosting its third AIPS Congress and its first since 1993. The first two were in Istanbul but organizers selected Antalya on the Mediterranean seaside as this year’s locale.
The Rixos Premium Belek is a spectacular resort and finding the appropriate words to describe its beauty, its elegance and its hospitality is difficult – even for the most gifted of journalists. Let’s just say … wish you were here to enjoy its many amenities and the graciousness we’ve experienced from the cordial staff.
For our purposes, the agenda here will keep us confined indoors so we aren’t tourists to the fullest degree. The work sessions, according to AIPS President Gianni Merlo, will be wide ranging and important. He’s even listing it as a turning point for journalists.
We’ll hear about the state of the profession of journalism, we’ll hear from an Afghan journalist telling us about how his war-torn country finds a way to maintain sport, we’ll be addressed by a journalist from Pakistan who’ll portray how journalists have been fired upon by the Taliban. We’ll be brought up to date on media issues pertaining to next month’s FIFA World Cup, plus the London Olympics in 2012 and even from the Turkish Football Federation which is a candidate to host the 2016 European Championship. They even aspire to one day attract the Olympics to this soil.
These are great times for Turkey with numerous international sports events to be staged here, including this year’s World Basketball Championships. Esat Yilmaer, President, Turkish Sports Writers’ Association and First Vice President AIPS, has worked diligently to bring the AIPS Congress here and in preparing the program.

Esat Yilmaer -- ready for the Congress

It hasn’t been easy nor has it been inexpensive, he says, but he is grateful for the support of many, including the Turkish Government and the Turkish Football Federation for making it possible to fulfill the lofty conference he envisioned for his country.
You see, Turkey is exposing itself here, ready to be assessed by about 360 journalists from 110 countries.
“Nobody knows Turkey very well,” Yilmaer says. “We have to show ourselves to the world. This Congress is very important because Turkey wants to explain itself to the world. A lot of people around the world don’t have any idea of how the Turkish people live because they are always thinking that Turkey is an Islamic country. But we want to show that we are a modern country. Turkey is also crazy about sport and sport is growing up in Turkey. It’s a way of showing that we are into sports and to show what we can do.”
I’m impressed with the venue, with the outline of the agenda, with the scope of participants, the way organizers arranged this and with the way the Turks have responded. It looks like they’re about to deliver a winner here where journalists who didn’t know this country and its people before – especially their passion for sports – will be enamoured, enlightened and wanting to return for more.