Instead, the Republican presidential candidate insulted Britain as it welcomed the world for the Olympics by casting doubt on London’s readiness for the Games, which open Friday, saying that the preparations he had seen were “disconcerting” and that it is “hard to know just how well it will turn out.”
The comments drew a swift rebuke from Prime Minister David Cameron and, by day’s end, a public tongue-lashing by the city’s mayor as the Olympic torch arrived in Hyde Park.
“I hear there’s a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we’re ready,” Mayor Boris Johnson cried out to a crowd of at least 60,000. “He wants to know whether we’re ready. Are we ready? Are we ready? Yes, we are.”
Cameron, responding to the candidate with a note of irritation, said that “of course it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere,” an apparent reference to Salt Lake City. That city held the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, which Romney organized. The prime minister and the mayor are conservatives, making their scolding all the more embarrassing for the candidate, an otherwise sympathetic ideological ally.
Romney later tried to end the controversy, stating in interviews that he was “very delighted with the prospect of a highly successful Olympic games.” That night, he was interviewed by CNN’s Piers Morgan, as Felicia Sonmez reported:
In a wide-ranging interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan on the eve of the London Olympics, presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney on Thursday was careful not to repeat his earlier misstep of suggesting that the city is ill-prepared to host the Games.
“It’s great; it’s absolutely fabulous,” Romney told Morgan at the Royal Naval College when asked how it felt to be in London for the Olympics.
“You know, I’d never been to an Olympics before I was given the Olympic job,” said Romney, who is widely credited with rescuing the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. “I mean, I’d done the same thing everybody else did -- I watched the games on TV. But to actually be here and to experience not just the athletes but also the volunteers who are working hard and excited, and then the whole community comes together, it’s fabulous.”
In Thursday night’s CNN interview, Romney – who was joined by his wife, Ann – sought to strike a most positive tone, praising London’s “great weather” and the enthusiasm surrounding this year’s Olympics.
“These games -- great weather, enthusiasm on the part of the people here in London,” he said. “I think you’re going to see terrific games that’ll be a long time in our memories.”