Istanbul boasts 2020 games on 2 continents

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Istanbul's bid for the 2020 Olympics offers an opportunity for the games to be staged for the first time on two continents and in a secular Muslim country, leaders of the Turkish candidacy said Tuesday.

Istanbul, a city of more than 12 million that straddles Asia and Europe, boasted Turkey has a young population, a stable democracy and strong economic growth that is more than 3 1/2 times the European average.

Istanbul's bid documents were made public a day after the files were submitted to the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Istanbul, which is making its fifth bid to host the games, is competing against Madrid and Tokyo. The IOC will select the host city on Sept. 7 in Buenos Aires.

''Istanbul 2020 will unite young and old, East and West,'' the bid committee said, adding that the city was ideally placed to improve ''global understanding.''

''Istanbul's economy alone is now larger than that of 12 countries in the European Union,'' it said.

Of the 36 planned venues for the games, 11 are in place and 10 are about to be built, according to the bidding committee. Five of the other 15 venues would be temporary facilities.

Istanbul's proposed budget for infrastructure and public services is listed at $19.2 billion, much higher than the $4.9 billion of Tokyo and $1.9 billion of Madrid.

The Turkish government has spent an average of $1.2 billion since 2005 to improve transportation in the city while other major infrastructure projects - including a crossing through the Bosporus waterway that bisects the city - would be completed by 2018, according to the documents.

The bid committee pledged the average travel times from the Olympic village to the venues would be ''just 16 minutes.''

The IOC evaluation commission will visit the city from March 24-27.

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