ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish President Abdullah Gul welcomed the IOC's evaluation committee to Istanbul on Sunday, reaffirming the government's commitment to staging the 2020 Olympic Games and pledging to "deliver on promises."
After four unsuccessful attempts, Turkey is highlighting its strong economy, plans for modern venues and a two-continent backdrop for the games in Istanbul, which straddles both Europe and Asia.
The International Olympic Committee's evaluation team, headed by Vice President Craig Reedie, began its four-day inspection of the city's bid Sunday. The team, which has already visited rival bidders Tokyo and Madrid, will assess the city's ability to host the games, its plans, existing venues and finances.
The IOC will select the 2020 host city by secret ballot at its general assembly in Buenos Aires on Sept. 7.
"When the eyes of the world are on Turkey, we will keep our promises," Gul told the panel, according to a statement from the Istanbul bid committee.
"I hope you will remember these words: The Turkish government, and Prime Minister (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan personally, are totally committed to Istanbul's bid and to delivering everything we promised in our candidature," Gul said.
He added: "We have a history of delivering on our promises and we will deliver on our commitment to you."
The delegation later toured Istanbul's existing venues and sites where new facilities are planned.
Whereas Tokyo hosted the 1964 Olympics and Spain held the games in Barcelona in 1992, many of Istanbul's venues will need to be constructed from scratch. Turkey insists this as an advantage that will provide modern venues tailor-made to suit all of the sports' requirements.
Addressing the city's notorious congestion problem, Turkey is undertaking a series of massive projects, including the construction of a six-runway third airport for the city, a third bridge crossing the Bosporus and an underwater rail link uniting the European and Asian sides of the city, along with expanded metro and light rail lines.
Istanbul's projected infrastructure budget for the Olympics is $19.2 billion — 10 times that of Madrid ($1.9 billion) and much higher than Tokyo ($4.9 billion).
"This is the time for Turkey," Gul said. "We are ready as never before, as I hope you will see during the coming days."
Istanbul had previously tried to host the 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 Games.
"I don't want to tell you about our vision for the Olympics, but of our passion for the games," said Turkey's youth and sports minister, Suat Kilic, according to a ministry statement.