Istanbul, Turkey – Day three of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) visit to inspect Istanbul’s 2020 Olympic bid was focused on Games time logistics including themes such as transportation, media operations and accommodation.
Minister of Tourism Omer Celik said that although many nations benefit economically by hosting the Games, there is a “reputation opportunity for Turkey”, and a platform to display the unique features of Turkey – and to promote peace.
But when pressed by reporters to comment on any plans to change Visa rules upon entry into Turkey for the Games, the Minister was reluctant to propose any special consideration.
“We don’t have a declared strategy,” he said.
“Of course we want a new fluid process for the Visa procedures. There will not be any red tape.”
Currently, visitors from many countries need to queue upon entry at the airport, often with long waits, to purchase a Visa at varying costs ranging from $20 USD for citizens of many European and African nations to a high of $60 for Canadians.
Istanbul received over 9 million visitors in 2012 making it the 3rd most visited city in Europe and the 5th in the world, so the city is already well-prepared with hotel accommodations.
Feza Solaklar, Head of Accommodation for Istanbul 2020 said the city is already able to deliver rooms above base IOC requirements. 43,300 equivalent accommodations will be available as well as 3,000 university beds as a supplement for the Olympic workforce.
Moving from point-to-point during the Games may be a concern since Istanbul is already considered one of the most congested cities in Europe. While bid officials aren’t denying this, they have been studying various solutions to ease the traffic network during the Olympics.
“We have tested several aspects during modeling,” Muzaffer Hacimustafaoglu, Head of Games Transport Directorate said.
“The Olympic Games will happen in summer and in Istanbul in the summer the number of cars are reduced by 20%.
“We are investing heavily in the public transport system; this will be another plus for us during Games time.
“People shifting from private cars to public transit will be promoted and encouraged; we will have flexible working hours; there will be special charges for congested times.
“We have tested several models. We will reduce congestion by 30% by 2020.”
Istanbul’s roads will be extended by more than 10% by 2020, according to Hacimustafaoglu, and $10 billion I being spent on an integrated plan with $3 billion of the work already completed.
In fact, on average $1.2 billion has been spent every year for the past several years.
Dedicated Olympic lanes will be added at Games time, that’s not new for the Olympics. But in Istanbul dedicated bus lanes are already in use and more than 700,000 people use buses in the city every day.
“During Games time, all ticket holders in Istanbul will travel free of charge,” Hacimustafaoglu added.
Currently under construction is the Marmaray rail tunnel that passes under the Bosphorus, linking the European and Asian sides of Istanbul. Due to open October 29th of this year, the new rail line through the tunnel is a key component of the Olympic transport plan.
Tuesday afternoon, the IOC evaluation team began visiting proposed venues on the Asian side of Istanbul. Billed as the first Games across two continents, a simple drive over the Bosphorus bridge is equivalent to intercontinental travel within Istanbul, the only city in the world that can make this claim.
In the Port cluster of the Bosphorus Zone, home to rowing, archery and other sports the IOC members had a chance to watch members of the women’s national volleyball team practice at the proposed volleyball venue.
The inspection will conclude Wednesday afternoon with a press conference at the Istanbul Four Seasons Hotel on the Bosphorus.