Games hopefuls make 2020 Olympic pitch
ST PETERSBURG, Russia
ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - From Rihanna's hit single "Diamonds" to hard economics, bid officials for Istanbul, Tokyo and Madrid made their pitch for the 2020 Olympics to the International Olympic Committee on Thursday as the race enters the final stretch.
The three cities have been campaigning for almost two years. The IOC will issue a crucial evaluation report on June 25 and elect the winner in September.
Turkey's largest city Istanbul, bidding for the fifth time in the last six editions, highlighted its location at the crossroads between Europe and Asia as it attempts to become the first city from a Muslim nation to host the Games.
"I can assure you hosting the Games is part of a broad agenda for Turkey," said Turkey' Sports Minister Suat Kilic, pointing to the country's sharp economic growth in the past few years.
"We now have the financial strength to host the Games," he said before a recording of "Diamonds" filled the large auditorium.
Tokyo, making its second consecutive attempt after failing to land the 2016 Olympics, played up its own economic strength as a safe Olympic destination.
"I understand that many people are saying that our bid is the safe option in this campaign," said Tokyo governor Naoki Inose. "What I don't understand is why some people seem to think that this could be a bad thing."
Tokyo, site of the 1964 Games, has already set aside $4.5 billion in a Games hosting fund in an effort to lure the summer Olympics back to Asia for the first time since the 2008 Beijing Games.
"This is cash in the bank. Ready right now to pay for all new permanent venues and infrastructure," he said.
Madrid officials were eager to convince the IOC of the country's financial clout despite the ongoing recession and a 27 percent unemployment rate.
"Spain has the largest growth potential in the next decade among the five most important economies in Europe, thanks to the increasing external competitiveness and the improvement of domestic demand," said Jaime Garcia-Legaz, Spanish State Secretary for Trade.
"The fundamentals of the Spanish economy are strong and deep," he said.
Madrid officials also highlighted the city's minimum venue construction needs and low budget with its three consecutive Olympic bids having transformed it into a Games blueprint.
"For 15 years Madrid has been preparing by building infrastructure and keeping our promises to the Olympic movement," said International Triathlon Union President Marisol Casado.
"We are not adapting the Olympic and Paralympic Games to fit our city. We have adapted our city to fit the Olympic and Paralympic Games," she said.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Justin Palmer)