Mitt Romney offered his unvarnished take of the challenges of holding the Olympics—and touched off criticism in the British press today and an apparent jab from Prime Minister David Cameron.
Romney, who ran the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, said during an NBC News interview Wednesday that there were “disconcerting” signs about Britain’s readiness.
“It’s hard to know just how well it will turn out,” he said. “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.”
Romney, who took great pride in the local support and enthusiasm of volunteers in Salt Lake, also suggested it would be important for the British public to do the same.
“Do they come together and celebrate the Olympic moment?” he said. “That’s something which we only find out once the Games actually begin.”
In response, the Daily Mail Online carried a headline, “Who invited him? US presidential hopeful Mitt Romney questions British public’s appetite for the Games during visit to London.”
Cameron, who visited the Olympic Park today, said the world would be wowed as the Opening Ceremonies are held Friday.
“You’re going to see beyond doubt that Britain can deliver,” Cameron told reporters. “We’ve delivered this incredible Olympic Park on time, on budget, and in real style.”
The Daily Telegraph said that when Cameron was asked directly about Romney’s comments, the prime minister said he would give the presumptive Republican presidential nominee a positive message when they met this morning.
That get-together occurred at 10 Downing St., the prime minister’s residence.
“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,” said Cameron, which was interpreted as a reference to Salt Lake City and Utah.
Before the meeting, Romney met with former Prime Minister Tony Blair and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. During another meeting with Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, he offered more supportive comments.
“The weather could not be better. Fortunately the sunshine is out and the warmth is here,” said Romney. “I know the spirit and the people of this community will welcome the athletes of the world.”
And when asked about a mistake in which the South Korean flag was shown on a stadium screen next to pictures of the North Korean soccer team players, Romney said it was “impossible for mistakes not to occur.”
He added: “Of course there will be errors from time-to-time, but those are all overshadowed by the extraordinary demonstrations of courage, character and determination by the athletes. The games are, after all, about the athletes, the volunteers and the people of the community that come together to celebrate those athletes. They are not about the Organizing Committee. And as soon as the sporting events begin, we all forget the organizers and focus on the athletes.”Glen Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.