Olympic weightlifters bridge Aegean divide

ANTALYA – The Greek and Turkish weightlifting federations said Friday they planned to train together for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, in another sign of warming relations between the countries. Kenan Nuhut, head of the Turkish Weightlifting Federation, and his Greek counterpart Yiannis Sgouros said the deal, which would lead to shared Olympic training camps, seminars and medical resources, would be subject to approval by the Greek and Turkish sports ministries. Nuhut and Sgouros made the announcement at the World Weightlifting Championships in Antalya, Turkey, saying the agreement symbolized the broader reconciliation between the two Aegean neighbors that have come to the brink of war three times in the last 30 years. There shouldn’t be war, there should be peace, Nuhut said. We are developing our relations in the area of sports. In August, the heads of the two countries’ soccer federations agreed to make a joint bid to host the 2008 European soccer championship finals. Nuhut said the weightlifting deal would go into effect next year, when the federations plan to launch joint training camps for their junior weightlifters. The Olympic training camp details would be hammered out in January and February by the countries’ sports ministers. Both Turkey and Greece are traditional weightlifting strongholds. Turkey boasts such names as three-time Olympic gold medalist Naim Suleymanoglu and world-record holder Halil Mutlu. Three-time Olympic medalists Kakhi Kakhiasvili and Pyrros Dimas have competed for Greece. Relations between Greece and Turkey have been warming since 1999, when deadly earthquakes struck both countries, leading to an outpouring of mutual aid and sympathy. Last Thursday the two countries’ foreign ministers signed a series of agreements in Athens, including a long-sought deal allowing Greece to deport illegal immigrants who arrive via Turkey. Political obstacles remain between the countries, especially over the divided island of Cyprus. Relations could deteriorate if the internationally recognized Greek-Cypriot government in the southern part of the island were to join the European Union without the Turkish-occupied north. But in sports there are fewer problems. Greek coach Christos Iakovou grew up on a Turkish island near Istanbul and used to train together with Turkish coach Cinar Yazici. We’ve been friends for 30 years, Iakovou said in fluent Turkish. Sgouros, who in addition to heading Greece’s federation also serves as secretary-general of the International Weightlifting Federation, agreed. We’re the best weightlifting teams, Sgouros said. And we share the same views. Which tribute gave you the most trouble in its organization?

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