SPORTS

Cyprus fears losing rally slot to Turkey

NICOSIA (AFP) – Cyprus’s three-year run as a top World Rally venue is threatened by a strong bid from regional rival Turkey, Cypriot officials said yesterday. Organizers and the government are worried that Turkey’s pulling power and commercial might will hold sway when the international federation FIA meets to decide on October 1 on the 2003 calendar. The cost of losing the Cyprus rally to rival Turkey is estimated at around $20.5 million. Cyprus Automobile Association head George Pavlides said the competition with Turkey was an «unfair fight.» He met Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis yesterday to discuss ways of keeping the Cyprus Rally on the world championship circuit. Rolandis also conceded that Cyprus had a difficult task on its hands in remaining one of the 14 countries to hold a championship event. «Turkey is a huge market, but we’ve had the rally for three years and we are going to try and keep it but it doesn’t mean we will succeed,» said the minister. He said that the manufacturers’ teams would consider their own best interests when weighing which countries should get the nod from the FIA. Rolandis added he would propose that the government agree to increase its funding of the rally. Cyprus Rally officials are hoping the FIA will take into account that the event has been rated in the top half of the calendar in terms of organization. «We’ve never had one stage canceled due to fan interference in the last three years. From an organizational standpoint, we’re top notch,» a Cyprus Rally spokesman told AFP. Cyprus joined the World Rally calendar in 2000 at the expense of the cash-strapped China Rally.