Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Mitt Romney begins trip with a swipe at London 2012 Olympic Games

US presidential candidate beats hasty retreat after comments on 'disconcerting' Games chaos

Prime Minister David Cameron meets US Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in Downing Street
Prime Minister David Cameron meets US Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in Downing Street
Labour leader Ed Miliband greets US Presidential candidate Mitt Romney in Westminster
Industrial workers in a scene during the London Olympic Games 2012 opening ceremony
Union flags are waved during the opening ceremony
Zara Dampney from Great BritainÕs WomenÕs Volleyball team during a training session on Centre Court at the Beach Volleyball arena at Horse Guards Parade in central London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday July 25, 2012. Photo credit should read: Julien Behal/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Netherlands Rowing team members (left to right) Inge Janssen, Jacobine Veenhoven, Chantal Achterberg and Sytske de Groot arrive at Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday July 24, 2012. Photo credit should read: Steve Parsons/PA Wire
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 20: Street artist James Cochran, Aka Jimmy C puts the finishing touches to a piece of work depicting the face of Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt on July 20, 2012 in London, England. The opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic games will take place in seven days on July 27, 2012. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Annabelle Smith of Australia practices a dive during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
A member of Team Australia practices the floor exercise during training sessions for artistic gymnastics ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games at Greenwich Training Academy on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Diver Tom Daley of Great Britain shakes water out of his hair as he climbs out of the pool during a diving training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Tom Daley (R) and Peter Waterfield of Great Britain during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Tom Daley of Great Britain dives during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Great Britain's Tim Baillie (left) and Stott Etienne in action in the mens double canoe during the training session at Lee Valley White Water Centre, Waltham Cross. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 26, 2012. Photo credit should read: Stephen Pond/PA Wire.
Athletes from the Great Britain Women's Synchronised Swimming team practice during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 25, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 25: (EDITORS NOTE: Multiple exposures were combined in camera to produce this image.) A Chinese diver trains ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatic Centre on July 25, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Hannah Johnston/Getty Images)
The Great Britain synchronize team train ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatic Centre on July 25, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Hannah Johnston/Getty Images)
Yang Sun of China swims during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England.
James Goddard of Great Britain looks on during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
Swimmer Hayden Stoeckel of Australia swims during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
Daniele Matias Hypolito of Brazil chalks her feet on the uneven bars during training sessions for artistic gymnastics ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games at Greenwich Training Academy on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Team GB Swimmer Keri-Anne Payne during the Team GB Press Conference at the Main Press Centre in the Olympic Park, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday July 25, 2012. Photo credit should read: Julien Behal/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Maria Sharapova of Russia looks on during the practice session ahead of the 2012 London Olympic Games at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: A Spanish volleyball player practices during a beach volleyball practice session ahead of the London 2012 Olympics at Horse Guards Parade on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: A Spanish volleyball player practices during a beach volleyball practice session ahead of the London 2012 Olympics at Horse Guards Parade on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Maria Tsiartsiani of Greece warms up during a beach volleyball practice session ahead of the London 2012 Olympics at Horse Guards Parade on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Greece's Voula Papachristou didn't make it to the games - but she would have been a contender in this discipline
Great Britain's Jessica Ennis during a Team GB athletics training session at the Monte Gordo Stadium in Monte Gordo, Portugal. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday July 25, 2012. Photo credit should read: Dave Thompson/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Great Britain's Tonia Couch during the Diving Training Session at the Aquatics Centre, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday July 25, 2012. Photo credit should read: David Davies/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Great Britain's Tom Daley talks with partner Peter Waterfield (left) during the training session in the Aquatics Centre at Olympic Park, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 26, 2012. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Great Britain's Tom Daley takes a shower after practice next to Tonia Couch at the Aquatics Centre at Olympic Park, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 26, 2012. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Great Britain's Tonia Couch takes a showers after the training session in the Aquatics Centre at Olympic Park, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 26, 2012. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 23: Stephanie Rice of Australia looks on during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 23, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 23: Stephanie Rice of Australia stretches during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 23, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 23: Becchara Palmer of Australia warms up during a Beach Volleyball training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at Horse Guards Parade on July 23, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 23: Becchara Palmer and Louise Bawden of Australia warm up during a Beach Volleyball training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at Horse Guards Parade on July 23, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 24: Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark looks on during a practice session ahead of the 2012 London Olympic Games at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon on July 24, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 24: (FREE FOR EDITORIAL USE) Team GB weightlifter Zoe Smith poses at the adidas Olympic Media Lounge at Westfield Stratford City on July 24, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images for adidas)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 24: Moira de Villiers of New Zealand addresses the media during a press conference ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games on July 24, 2012 at the Main Press Center in London, England. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 25: Georgie Twigg of Great Britain looks on during a British Olympic Association Hockey Press Conference ahead of the London 2012 Olympics at the Olympic Park on July 25, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 25: Heather Watson (L) and Laura Robson of Great Britain take a break during a practice session ahead of the 2012 London Olympic Games at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon on July 25, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Swimmer Keri-Anne Payne of Great Britain smiles during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Swimmer Siobhan-Marie Oconnor of Great Britain looks on during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Cook Islands atheletes (L-R) Patricia Taea, Ella Nicholas and Celeste Brown relax in Athletes Village after their official welcome to the Athletes' Village at the Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by John Stillwell - WPA Pool / Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Federica Pellegrini of Italy looks on during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Dave Berry poses backstage at the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay Finale Concert in London's Hyde Park, presented by Coca-Cola on July 26, 2012 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Shirlaine Forrest/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Tom Daley of Great Britain looks on during a diving training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
USA's Serena Williams during the press conference in the Main Press Centre at the Olympic Park, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday July 24, 2012. Photo credit should read: Stephen Pond/PA Wire

Mitt Romney made a distinctly undiplomatic first impression on Londoners yesterday, raising concerns about the city's handling of the Olympic Games before being forced into an embarrassing volte-face.

The Republican presidential hopeful's fundraising visit to Britain was meant to be a chance for the former Massachusetts Governor to display a foreign-affairs gravitas that would help to sell his claim to the White House.



But rather than flaunting his statesman-like credentials, Mr Romney managed to insult his hosts and commit that cardinal sin of US politics – "flip-flopping" – all within hours of landing in Britain. In unguarded and far-from-diplomatic language, Mr Romney initially questioned London's commitment and ability to stage the Games. In an interview with US television, he said he had noticed "disconcerting" signs that Team London was not ready. "It's hard to know how it will all turn out," he said.



Mr Romney's comments on Olympic organisation carry weight. As the capitalist guru who saved the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics from financial ruin, he can claim to know a thing or two about staging the world's biggest sporting event.



His comments prompted a sharp rebuke from David Cameron, who said: "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."



But hours later, after a private one-to-one with Mr Cameron at No 10, Mr Romney appeared miraculously converted and predicted that London 2012 would be a "very successful" Olympics. In the summer sun in Downing Street, attempting to put the morning's mistakes behind him, Governor Romney focused on beach volleyball. "As I look out of the back side of 10 Downing Street [I] see a venue having been constructed. Knowing that athletes will be carrying out their activities almost in the backyard of the Prime Minister is really quite an accomplishment."



His U-turn apparently went unnoticed by Boris Johnson, however, who had his own retort to Mr Romney's doubts about London's readiness. Speaking in front of 60,000 people at a concert in Hyde Park to mark the end of the Olympic Torch relay, the Mayor of London shouted: "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!"



Mr Romney's day of gaffes did not end there. After a meeting with Tony Blair in his Brook Street offices in Mayfair, he greeted Ed Miliband in his Commons office as "Mr Leader" – leading some to wonder whether he had forgotten the Labour leader's name. "My right honourable friend" would have been amusing, though "comrade" isn't in the Republican lexicon.



The Romney campaign may not judge London as a failure if the £75,000-a-plate fundraising dinner held last night in Mayfair delivers millions of dollars into the Republicans' coffers.



Raising big bucks for what is expected to be the most expensive bid for the White House in history means picking the pockets of rich Republicans who have high-wealth profiles in London's financial district.



Of those attending the private fund-raiser – where all were asked to bring their US passports to ensure compliance with US election rules – some are reported to have donation track records that go back to Ronald Reagan, John McCain, Dick Cheney, and both George Bush Snr and Jnr.



City rumours that the gaffe-punctuated day had reduced the plate-rate fee were dismissed by campaign insiders as "mischievous". Among the key co-hosts for a fundraising supper in Mayfair last night were: Eric Assimakopoulos, the founder and managing director of Revetas Capital Advisers; Scott Collins, from Summit Partners; and Dwight Poler, from Bain Capital Europe.



Karin Robinson, vice-chairwoman of the Democrats Abroad organisation, said: "These bankers are being asked to write cheques for Mitt Romney because they know that if he wins they get to write their own rules. These millionaires and billionaires are being promised generous tax cuts while the rest of us are struggling."

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