Talat on Formula 1

Turkey uses a motorsport event to stage an utterly pointless Cyprus stunt
Mehmet Ali Talat Formula 1
Trophy scene: Talat and Felipe Massa
Mehmet Ali Talat Formula 1
Trophy scene: Talat and Felipe Massa

Turkey uses a motorsport event to stage an utterly pointless Cyprus stunt

Having just pipped Fernando Alonso to the chequered flag in Istanbul’s Formula 1 Grand Prix, Felipe Massa took to the podium and turned to his right expecting to be handed a strange oval-like prize from one of Turkey’s political elite – the prime minister, perhaps? – but instead received the object from some man called Mehmet Ali Talat. Who was he? Anyone important? Did it even matter? Massa had just won his first ever F1 race, he didn’t care if Turkey’s finest wasn’t there to award it to him.

The trouble is, there are some who do care. All of Greek Cyprus, for one. You see, Mehmet Ali Talat is the president of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a country recognised by no-one save Turkey, and Turkish officials seem to have taken the opportunity yesterday to give it a spot of promotion. Mr Talat was identified on-screen as “President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” to two billion viewers in 203 countries. He gave over the deformed trophy and disappeared – it must have been all of thirty seconds, but the Greek Cypriots weren’t happy.

Politis used the headline “Talat forced into the presidency”. Fileleftheros called it a “provocation with Formula 1 – Turkish officials have used the world’s largest sporting organisation to political ends”. Greek Cypriot officials have already complained, and Turkey now faces an official warning or even a fine.

They deserve it. Using Mr Talat to present the prize was a cheap and sad ploy, and Turkish officials did it in full knowledge of the reaction it would provoke.

What I fail to understand is the motive – did anyone really think that groups of Formula 1 fans watching across Germany, Singapore or Brazil would really sit up and exclaim, “Eureka! My stance on the Cyprus issue has changed!”? Answers on a postcard, please.

Image © Copyright NTVMSNBC, 2006.

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