U.S. Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney, the self-named savior of the Salt Lake 2002 Winter Olympic Games, has attracted broadsides from British politicians with tactless remarks about London’s readiness for the Games – from London’s Mayor Boris Johnson as well as from Prime Minister David Cameron.
Johnson blasted back in Mitt Romney’s “London’s not ready” row by leading 65,000 music-lovers at a Hyde Park Olympics concert in chants of Obama’s slogan: “Yes we can!” Stepping on stage after the flame was carried into the park by teenage saxophonist Tyler Rix, the Mayor said: “I’ve never seen anything like this in all my life. The excitement is growing so much the Geiger counter of Olympo-mania is going to go zoing off the scale. This is the greatest city on Earth. Some people don’t know about the preparation we’ve done to get London ready in the past seven years.”
“Mitt Romney wants to know whether we are ready,” Johnson continued according to Evening Standard’s homepage. “We are ready. The venues are ready. The police are ready. The security is ready. The velodrome is ready and Team GB are ready. We’re going to win more gold, silver and bronze medals than you’d need to bail out Greece,” said Johnson.
He then asked the crowd: “Can we put on the greatest Olympic games ever held?” – who cheered President Obama’s famous 2008 “Yes we can!” slogan in a pantomime call-and-response. The chant rang out as he continued: “Can we beat France? Yes we can. Can we beat Australia? Yes we can. Can we beat Germany? Yes… I think we can.”
David Cameron also delivered a put down to Romney, who had told U.S. TV that there were “disconcerting” stories about Britain’s readiness and it was hard to know “just how well it [the Games] … will turn out.” Cameron responded: “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.”
The exchange came as Romney received a perfunctory welcome from the British political establishment on a day that was swiftly dubbed the “Romneyshambles” for a series of gaffes. Romney, according to The Times daily, revealed a top secret briefing with Sir John Sawers, head of the MI6 secret service; he embarrassed Labor leader Ed Miliband by calling him “Mr. Leader” rather than using his name; and welcomed the view of the beach volleyball arena “out the backside of Downing Street.”
Senior figures in all three political parties suggested they had not been overwhelmed by Romney in person and were disappointed by his Olympic gaffes.
The Republican challenger saw Tony Blair in his Mayfair offices, went to Parliament to see Ed Miliband, then travelled across to Downing Street with Nick Clegg, William Hague, Mr. Cameron and finally George Osborne. One diplomatic source said of the encounters: “It is worse than Sarah Palin interms of basic diplomacy.” Another source said: “There is none of the stardust of his opponent.”
The row was triggered when NBC anchor Brian Williams asked Mitt Romney on Wednesday (two days before the Olympic Opening Ceremonies): “In the short time you’ve been here in London, do they look ready to your experienced eye?” Sitting in the Tower of London, Mr. Romney replied: “You know, it’s hard to know just how well it will turn out. 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…”
Hosting a series of major pre-Olympic events before meeting Romney, Prime Minister Cameronwas quick to show his disdain. “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. Inevitably you’re going to have challenges.” This, according to The Times, was seen as a swipe at Salt Lake City, as Cameron went on to refer to his recent trip to Naypyidaw, the deserted new capital of Burma.
This did not stop an irritable response from the Utah capital, with the Mayor’s office responding: “[David Cameron] can stop by any time. We’d love to have him and are happy to send a map so he doesn’t run into any trouble locating the middle of nowhere.”
This article appeared in the blog, The Sport Intern, which is published by Karl-Heinz Huba in Lorsch, Germany. Mr. Huba can be reached via email at ISMG@aol.com. The article is reprinted here with permission from Mr. Huba.