Romney Criticizes Olympic Preparation While Visiting London
In an interview with NBC's Brian Williams, the former President and CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee that put on the 2002 Winter Olympics sounded a pessimistic tone about London's showcase event. As the Guardian reports:
"When asked about the preparations for the Olympics earlier in the day by the NBC anchor Brian Williams, Romney said: 'You know, it's hard to know just how well it will turn out. There are a few things that were disconcerting, the stories about the private security firm not having enough people, supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials, that obviously is not something which is encouraging. Because there are three parts that makes Games successful.
'Number one, of course, are the athletes. That's what overwhelmingly the Games are about. Number two are the volunteers. And they'll have great volunteers here. But number three are the people of the country. Do they come together and celebrate the Olympic moment? And that's something which we only find out once the Games actually begin.'"
The British media and public reacted as expected to Romney's insults to their preparedness and national character, with a critical editorial in the Telegraph, which is not exactly a newspaper hostile to conservatives, as well as London mayor Boris Johnson using the slight to rally crowds, according to Reuters. Also according to the Guardian, a senior British government source called Romney's comments "a total shocker" and before meeting the candidate, British Prime Minister David Cameron fired back with a shot at Salt Lake City, not only the setting for the successful 2002 Games but also the spiritual center of Romney's Mormon faith.
"On a visit to the Olympic Park, the prime minister said: 'We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world. Of course it's easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere.'"
Romney backed off his comments at a press conference with Cameron later in the day, as the Washington Post reports:
"Romney, in his public appearances here Thursday, was carefully positive on the subject. He said, 'It is impossible for absolutely no mistakes to occur' at any Olympic Games. And in an appearance with Cameron in the formal White Room at 10 Downing Street, he pronounced the games 'fabulous.'
'I was watching last night the torch relay coming across Great Britain and the stories about that, and the enthusiasm and passion,' he said. 'And I love the theme, 'Inspire a Generation.''"
The former governor of Masachusetts is in London as he begins a foreign trip that also includes Poland and Israel, the latter of which is a country that President Obama has not visited in his first term and will likely be something Romney will campaign on in an attempt to win Jewish voters, traditionally a solid Democratic voting bloc. The trip is designed to showcase Romney as a polished statesman, an effort made much more difficult by Thursday's day of damage control after flippantly insulting America's closest ally.
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