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Olympics: Istanbul residents back Olympic bid - sports minister

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

A resounding majority of Istanbul residents back the city's candidacy to host the 2020 Olympic Games, Turkish Sports Minister Suat Kilic said Monday.

"83% of Istanbul's population support the bid - that's 11 million people who want a city which bridges East and West to host the Games," Kilic told reporters amid a visit by the evaluation commission of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The commission members are on the second DAY of a four-day tour of the huge city that straddles Asia and Europe after previously assessing the rivals bids of Tokyo and Madrid, who are also in the running to host the event in seven years' time.

A decision will be taken at an IOC meeting in the Argentinian capital Buenos Aires in September but Istanbul organisers say that they have their strongest bid to date and their previous failures will be a key element in the final vote.

"With these figures, released today, the Olympic family can be assured of full venues with knowledgeable and enthusiastic crowds as well as millions of Turkish consumers with ever-increasing disposable incomes to spend on tickets, sponsors' and licenced products," bid president Hasan Arat said.

Beside the proclaimed public support comes "total" government support, according to Turkish President Abdullah Gul.

"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.

"This is the time for Turkey. We are ready as never before."

Istanbul has had four unsuccessful candidacies since 2000, and its fifth bid is based on Turkey's strong economic growth (of more than eight percent in 2010 and 2011) and its unique geographical position between Europe and Asia.

Sports Minister Kilic unveiled the Istanbul bid's slogan as "Bridge together", inspired by the Bosphorus Bridge that spans the divide between the two continents.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130325/olympics-istanbul-residents-back-olympic-bid-sports-minister