AUGUST 17, 2005
Istanbul steps up security for Grand Prix
Very tight security measures have been set for the inaugural Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul on Sunday.
More than two thousand paramilitary police will be on patrol at the new circuit, all vehicles will be searched, and all fans must pass through metal detectors upon entry.
Within the last month, Turkey has suffered two fatal terror attacks. Three weeks ago a bomb planted in a trash can in an Istanbul suburb close to the track killed two people. In mid-July, a bomb on a minibus in the Aegean resort town of Kusadasi killed five people, including a British woman and an Irish teenager. And just last week, police detained a suspected militant they believe planned to slam his speedboat packed with explosives into visiting Israeli cruise ships. In 2003, Istanbul was also the target of a terrorist suicide attack that killed more than 60 people.
"Measures we're taking here for security purposes have been doubled", said Mumtaz Tahincioglu, head of the Turkish Motorsports Federation.
Other government officials are hoping that the Grand Prix will be the solution to improving the country's suffering tourism industry. Especially after the government has come under harsh criticism when the cost of building the circuit rose from $60 million to an estimated $150 million. But Murat Yalcintas, head of the Istanbul chamber of commerce estimates that the event could bring up to $120 million in revenue for the city.
Prime minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the track recently and said, "With such an event you don't count the money you paid, you count the benefits to Turkey's promotion."
As the race approaches this weekend, there are still concerns about how ready the circuit will be for its Formula One debut. On Tuesday, construction workers were paving parking areas, putting in guard rails along the access roads and planting trees around the circuit.
Tahincioglu did admit, "The landscaping is not going to be absolutely perfect. What you see here are the final touches - mostly cleaning and painting."
At least security officials are ready for the F1 circus.
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