Sat, July 28, 2012
Sports > Popular News > 2012 London Olympic Games

Romney's comments mocked in London

2012-07-28 05:52:21 GMT2012-07-28 13:52:21(Beijing Time)  China Daily

Mitt Romney, US Republican presidential candidate, arrives at Downing Street in London on Thursday. [Photo/Agencies]

By the end of Mitt Romney's first full day in London on Thursday, he had been the target of a verbal jab from the British prime minister and mocked by the city's mayor, who spoke before a cheering crowd.

The US Republican presidential candidate's trip - carefully choreographed to boost his image on an international stage - has not gone exactly as planned.

He ruffled British feathers by appearing to suggest in a US television interview on Wednesday that London was not ready for the Games.

"It's hard to know just how well it will turn out," Romney, who led the Salt Lake City Winter Games in 2002, told NBC News, referring to London's Olympic preparations. "There are a few things that were disconcerting," he said, including the threat of a strike by immigration and customs officials.

The comments provoked an uproar in the feisty British media and drew a biting response from Prime Minister David Cameron, one of the government officials Romney met briefly on Thursday.

Cameron, who was forced to deploy extra troops to bolster security at the Olympics to cover a shortfall left by a private contractor, defended Britain's handling of the Games and seemed to suggest that the challenge was significantly greater than what Romney faced at Salt Lake City's much smaller Games a decade ago.

"We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world," the Conservative prime minister said during a news conference at the Olympic Park in London. "Of course, it is easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere."

London Mayor Boris Johnson cast aside diplomatic niceties when addressing a cheering crowd in Hyde Park, an Olympics venue in central London.

"I hear there's a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we're ready," Johnson said, in a moment that could have been scripted as a commercial for Romney's opponent in the Nov 6 election, US President Barack Obama.

"He wants to know whether we're ready," Johnson called out to the crowd. "Are we ready? Are we ready? Yes, we are."

The scene, and Cameron's remarks, put Romney in damage control mode at the start of a foray to Britain, Israel and Poland that is scheduled to be light on policy pronouncements and heavy on photo opportunities and fundraising.

Romney, who has made much of his record in helping to save the failing Salt Lake Games, later backtracked and predicted that the London Games will be highly successful.

"We talked about the great progress that has been made in organizing the Games," Romney said after meeting Cameron in a Downing Street parlor where the arena for Olympic beach volleyball could be seen out the back window.

The Olympic appearance carries special significance for Romney. His political career was born out of his leading role at the Salt Lake City Games, which were plagued by scandal before he was tapped to take over.

The negative attention distracted from his push to highlight the US-British bond and bolster his foreign policy credentials.

And his comments about the London Games followed what already had been an inauspicious start to his week-long overseas trip.

Romney had to disavow comments by an unidentified adviser who told the Daily Telegraph that Obama, the first African-American president of the United States, had mishandled US-British ties and that Romney better understood the "Anglo-Saxon heritage" between the two countries.

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