Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, made several gaffes when he attended the opening of the ceremonies in London. He upset the local government. And Obama's campaign celebrated the spectacle.
Fortunately, he travels to Israel today. The American Republican candidate Mitt Romney arrived in London as a guest to the Olympic Games, and made so many gaffes in 24 hours that it was clear he urgently needed a diplomacy course. His opponent in the next elections, Barack Obama, must be happy after such a mess.
In a day described by the British media as “Romneyshambles,” the Republican criticized the organization of the Olympic Games and doubted that the United Kingdom was ready to hold them. His words had an immediate impact in Washington, where President Barack Obama's team — seeking to beat Romney in November to achieve the re-election — stressed the opposition candidate's lack of diplomatic tact.
In addition to asking how the Games would be held, Romney revealed that he had met the Chief of MI6, the secret intelligence service, and that he had been informed about Syria —when those meetings are state secret. He even forgot the name of the leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband, and called him “Mister Leader.”
It might have seemed a series of gags worthy of a Woody Allen film if his comments hadn't deeply irritated the Prime Minister David Cameron, who later received him in Downing Street, as well Mayor of London Boris Johnson.
It all started when the former Governor of Massachusetts —and Republican presidential candidate— was interviewed in the Tower of London by the American television network NBC. The journalist simply asked him, “In the short time you’ve been in London, do they (the British) look ready to your experienced eye?” In that moment Romney —who, apart from the Winter Olympic Games in remote Salt Lake City in 2002, has no experience organizing international events— answered, “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, the supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials—that obviously is not something which is encouraging.”
In Downing Street they were left “speechless” and “in complete shock,” according to what was later admitted by an important source. Cameron responded furiously. “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,” said the Prime Minister in obvious reference to the games organized by Romney, where he was accused of corruption.
In Hyde Park, Mayor of London Boris Johnson answered him in front of thousands of people who were waiting for the Olympic torch. “There’s a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we are ready,” he yelled from the stage. “Are we ready?” he asked the crowd who screamed “yes” as an answer.
Romney arrived in England’s capital as part of his first candidacy tour of European countries, as well as to attend the opening ceremonies of the Games as a guest, where his wife is participating in the equestrian events.* He also held an interview with the former Prime Minister Tony Blair and other British politicians before leaving for Israel. None of them were impressed. One of the political advisors, who took part in the meetings, described him with amazement: “He is worse than Sarah Palin.” Another member of the Labour Party was even harsher: “He's even worse than George Bush.”
With the diplomatic situation unraveling, his campaign team in Washington organized a press conference without much success. Harry Reid, Democratic Senate Majority Leader, described the situation as “embarrassing” for the USA. “It's not good for us as a country (...) to have somebody that's nominated by one of the principal parties to go over and insult everybody,” Reid said.
The athlete Carl Lewis was even more blunt: “I swear, sometimes I think some Americans shouldn't leave the country,” said the legendary sportsman. “Are you kidding me – stay home if you don't know what to say,” commented the “Son of the Wind,” the winner of nine Olympic gold medals, who is considered to be one of the best athletes in the history of the United States.
*Editor’s note: Anne Romney was not herself participating in the Games, but rather owns a dressage horse which was being ridden in the competition.