Romney's London Comments Weaken His Olympic-Savior Argument - But Did He Really Save The 2002 Games?

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One of Mitt Romney's biggest selling points in his campaign for the White House is leading the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics -- marred by a bribery scandal and budget shortfalls before he took over -- to becoming a successful, money-making event.

However, a series of blunders made ahead of the London 2012 Summer Olympics has not only threatened to jeopardize one of his campaign's strong suits, but has also led to questions about his readiness to represent the United States overseas.

While on the well-publicized diplomatic trip, Romney criticized the host country's handling of the games and questioned just how prepared London is to become home to the Olympics this year.

"You know, it's hard to know just how well it will turn out," Romney told NBC's Brian Williams during an interview. "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 was immediately the hot topic of London newspaper websites. Those comments didn't go without a reaction from British Prime Minister David Cameron, who said London will show exactly how well it is at welcoming people even though the games are being hosted 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," Cameron added, in an apparent dig at Salt Lake.

But the backlash against Romeny didn't stop there.

London Mayor Boris Johnson fired back in front of a crowd of 60,000 in Hyde Park saying, "There are some people coming from around the world who don't yet know if we are ready. There's a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we are ready. Are we ready? Yes we are!"

Simialrly, James Chapman, the political editor of the UK's Daily Mail, tweeted, "Serious dismay in Whitehall at Romney debut. 'Worse than Sarah Palin.' 'Total car crash'. Two of the kinder verdicts."

Chapman later tweeted that a British source that said this after meeting Romney, "'Apparently devoid of charm, warmth, humour or sincerity.'"

Saving The 2002 Olympics?

When it comes to speaking about the Olympics and his stint at running the show, Romney has no hesitation. In fact, Romney touts his takeover as a big rescue because the ethics scandals-ridden 2002 games led to many resignations from top officials following 1998 allegations that large cash payments and other incentives were given to members of the International Olympic Committee, or IOC, for a favorable vote in 1995.

It is believed that the successes Romney enjoyed while in Utah helped with his being elected governor of Massachusetts in 2003. By then Romney was a well-known face. His problem-solving skills were evident and even while on the presidential campaign trail Romney has reminded the public that he knows how to fix things.

"I worked at one company, Bain, for 25 years," Romney said in a campaign ad titled "Leader." "And I left that to go off and help save the Olympic Games."

Romney did make a turnaround for things in Salt Lake. By the time he stepped in, the event was nearly at a $400 million revenue shortfall. There were reports that plans were afoot to cut back the games in order to make up for that loss. The bribery allegations had sponsors worried about the Olympics' image.

CNN reported in January 1999 that the IOC had to reassure backers with heavy pockets that investigations were being done to get to the bottom of the claims. By the time that article was published, the games' 11 top sponsors had already each contributed an estimated $40 million to $50 million to the IOC.

What Romney did was bring his knowledge of running a business to the games.

Romney restored the sponsors' confidence. He wiped away the deficit, overhauled leadership and policies, ensured safety after the 9/11 attacks, and brought in major funding - including from the federal government. When it was all over, there was a reported surplus of $100 million. It was without doubt one of the most successful Olympics.

But while the Salt Lake Games were struggling, some said that Romney's "saving" the Olympics is a bit of a stretch because it wasn't a question that the games were going to be held as planned.

"Within a couple of days I flew to Washington and met with President Bush," former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt told Terry Gildea of NPR affiliate KUER. "I said to him, 'I think this is an important moment.' And he ... gave the clear order that we would move forward and that the federal government needed to be as fully engaged in this as possible to ensure that nothing stood in our way."

Feeling The Heat Back Home

The trip to London was an opportunity for Romney to prove his leadership abilities on the global front. His flaps have drawn criticism from some politicians on this side of the pond.

It didn't help Romney's image much when a story in the UK's Daily Telegraph alleged an anonymous adviser to the presidential hopeful said President Barack Obama doesn't understand the "Anglo-Saxon" relations between America and Britain.

"We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special," the adviser said. "The White House didn't fully appreciate the shared history we have."

Romney has distanced himself from that comment but that didn't stop Vice President Joe Biden from chiming in on the GOP's top man's ability to lead.

"Despite his promises that politics stops at the water's edge, Gov. Romney's wheels hadn't even touched down in London before his advisors were reportedly playing politics with international diplomacy, attempting to create daylight between the United States and the United Kingdom where none exists," Biden said of the comments in the Daily Telegraph, as reported by Buzzfeed. "Our special relationship with the British is stronger than ever and we are proud to work hand-in-hand with Prime Minister Cameron to confront every major national security challenge we face today.

"The comments reported this morning are a disturbing start to a trip designed to demonstrate Gov. Romney's readiness to represent the United States on the world's stage," Biden continued. "Not surprisingly, this is just another feeble attempt by the Romney campaign to score political points at the expense of this critical partnership. This assertion is beneath a presidential campaign."

What do you think of the controversy surrounding Romney's trip to the London Olympics? Do you think that it speaks to his ability to represent America as president on a global scale? Let us know in the comment box below.

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