Romney softens Olympics remarks

July 27, 2012 at 2:41 PM
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LONDON, July 27 (UPI) -- Republican U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney Friday backpedaled his criticism of the London Olympic Games, saying he's now convinced the Brits are ready.

Romney, on the first leg of his foreign swing, said in London Thursday he didn't think London was quite ready for the games, prompting sharp criticism in the British press as well as from Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson.

On the "Today" show Friday, Romney attempted to make amends, The Hill reported.

"I'm absolutely convinced the people here are ready for the Games, and in just a few moments, all the things politicians say will get swept away because the athletes finally take the stage," said Romney, who headed up the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. "The Games are all about the athletes."

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Romney said he expected the Summer Olympic Games in London -- whose opening ceremonies are to begin Friday -- to be successful after he told NBC News: "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."

A threatened strike by British immigration employees was called off Wednesday.

"We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world," Cameron said. "Of course it's easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere."

The British press said the allusion was to Salt Lake City.

At the White House, Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Thursday President Barack Obama and senior administration officials met that morning to discuss Olympics security.

He then said President Barack Obama "made it clear that he has the utmost confidence in our close friend and ally, the United Kingdom, as they finalize preparation to host the London Olympics."

Carney, who didn't mention the Romney incident, was asked by a reporter if his report had anything to do with Romney's remarks.

Carney said: "The president had this briefing today, so, no. The answer is no. He did -- it did not."

"But the decision to read it out to us publicly?" the reporter asked.

"I'm just trying to fill you in on the president's day," Carney said.

Romney later backed away from his original comments, and Cameron said after meeting with Romney that he "felt a vote of confidence" about the Olympic Games from their private conversation.

Romney said he and Cameron also spoke at length about Syria and other issues.

He said in keeping with tradition, he didn't "want to refer to any comments made by leaders representing other nations, nor do I want to describe foreign policy positions I might have while I'm on foreign soil."

"Discussions of foreign policy should be made by the president and the current administration, not by those that are seeking office," he said. "I really am not going add anything about my own views on Syria. ... I can only say that I appreciated the insights and perspectives of the leaders of the government here and opposition here as well as the head of MI6."

His MI6 comment -- the shorthand name for Britain's Secret Intelligence Service -- was also seized on by some in the British press who said visiting dignitaries typically do not discuss their private meetings with the MI6 chief.

Romney said at a Thursday evening fundraiser that was expected to raise at least $2 million he had "a marvelous day."

He next travels to Israel.

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