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Romney wades into London Olympics controversy

July 26, 2012|By Kim Geiger
  • Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney walks out of 10 Downing Street after meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron in London.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney walks out of 10 Downing… (Charles Dharapak / Associated…)

There are a few things presidential candidates shouldn’t do when they travel abroad: Don’t bash the president, don’t apologize for America, and don’t insult the host country.

Mitt Romney certainly knows not to do the first two. But his international jaunt, which began Wednesday in London, got off to an awkward start when Romney questioned the city’s preparedness for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Shortly after he landed in London on Wednesday, Romney remarked on reports that the city had struggled with its preparation for the Games.

PHOTOS: Romney's trip abroad

“You know, it's hard to know just how well it will turn out,” Romney said in an interview with NBC’s Brian Williams. “There are a few things that were disconcerting, the stories about the private security firm not having enough people, the supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials. That obviously is not something which is encouraging.”

Romney also questioned whether the British people would be able to “come together and celebrate the Olympic moment.”

“That’s something which we only find out once the Games actually begin,” he said.

The comments drew a rebuke from British Prime Minister David Cameron and cast a shadow over the trip, which was supposed to be an opportunity for Romney to demonstrate his skills at diplomacy.

“I think we will show the whole world not just that we come together as a United Kingdom, but also, we’re extremely good at welcoming people from across the world,” Cameron fired back Thursday. He said he planned to “make those points” to Romney.

Cameron also made a comment that was perceived to be a jab at Romney, who regularly touts his success at turning around the troubled 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.  

 “We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world,” Cameron said Thursday during a visit to the Olympic park. “Of course it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere.”

Video of the statement suggests that Cameron might have been referring to his recent visit to Naypyidaw, the deserted capital of Burma, where there are “six-lane highways and no cars on them.”

Still, it didn’t take long for Cameron’s statement to add fuel to an already blazing fire in the British media. And it ruffled feathers here, as well.

"While those of us who have had the fortune of visiting London know it is certainly a wonderful city, Prime Minister Cameron's comments likely reflect his lack of familiarity with Salt Lake City," Art Raymond, a spokesman for Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker, said in a statement to BuzzFeed.

Romney and Cameron met Thursday afternoon, but apparently did not discuss the controversy. In a brief question and answer session with the media, Romney tried to walk the comment back.

"My experience as an Olympic organizer is that there are always a few very small things that end up going not quite right in the first day or so," he said. "Those get ironed out and then when the Games themselves begin and the athletes take over, all the mistakes that the organizing committee, and I made a few, all of those are overwhelmed by the many things that the athletes carry out that capture the spirit of the Games.”

Romney added that he was “very delighted with the prospects of a highly successful Olympic games.”

kim.geiger@latimes.com

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