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Young Turks form charm offensive

By Ossian Shine

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Young Turks will be thrust front and center of Istanbul's bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games, as the city hopes to charm IOC members with the country's "greatest natural resource".

The city has selected 50 young athletes under the age of 25 to woo Olympic kingpins on Saturday when the Turkish capital will go head to head with Madrid and Tokyo in Buenos Aires.

"Turkey's youth are our greatest natural resource and they are for the future," bid leader Hasan Arat told reporters in the Argentine capital on Thursday.

"The delegation we have here is a clear sign of how seriously we take our pledge to engage with the huge young population in Turkey and across the Olympic Movement.

"Turkey's youth are at the very heart of our bid, our greatest natural resource and our brightest prospect for the future - so it is right that we should turn to them to help us bring the Olympic and Paralympic Games to Turkey for the very first time."

Expanding on his theme, Arat said there are twice as many high school students in Turkey than there were 10 years ago, and that the country produces 700,000 university graduates every year.

"Youth unemployment has actually dropped since the start of the global economic crisis - the creation of 4.7 million new jobs since 2009 has helped Turkey register some of the lowest youth unemployment rates in Europe," Arat added.

The former basketball player said the 50 youngsters would be present during Istanbul's presentation to the International Olympic Committee and would sit in the front seats ahead of politicians, administrators and bureaucrats.

"At the IOC Congress in Copenhagen in 2009, the IOC said that 'the youth of the world are at the heart of the Olympic Movement', and we fully subscribe to that belief," Arat said.

"If we are awarded the honor of hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games for the first time, Istanbul 2020 will be the ideal platform for engaging young people."

The 50 young ambassadors will comprise half the official Istanbul 2020 delegation. Arat said they represent the huge youth population in Turkey, where nearly half of the population is under 25, making it the youngest country in Europe.

(Editing by Ken Ferris)

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