Attempts: 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2020
Olympic Connection: Every July since 1989, Istanbul has hosted the Bosphorus Cross-Continental 4-mile swimming and kayaking races, which is overseen by the International Olympic Committee and the National Olympic Committee of Turkey. An adopted Istanbulite, Ramazan Sahin – who won Turkey’s only gold medal in Beijing, for freestyle wrestling – will return to defend his title in London. With only Madrid and Tokyo as competitors, Istanbul has a strong shot at securing the 2020 Games.
Get Your Sports Fix: Built for the failed 2008 Olympics bid, Ataturk Olympic Stadium – Turkey’s largest sports venue – will undergo an overhaul starting in January 2013 in preparation for the 2020 bid. While it’s closed, you can still catch a soccer game at one of the city’s other main arenas, like the 52,650-seat Turk Telekom Arena, where the Guinness World Records awarded the “loudest crowd roar at a sports stadium” (131.76 decibels!) on March 18, 2011. Istanbul also was named the 2012 European Capital of Sports and will host the WTA Tennis Championships Oct. 23-28.
Gold Medal Attractions: Istanbul is best known for its historic sites and structures, many of which underwent renovations during the city’s 2010 reign as a European Capital of Culture: that year the city completed a 17-year restoration project on the Hagia Sofia and refurbished a section of the Topkapi Palace housing a rare collection of Chinese and Japanese porcelains.