Mitt Romney, chief executive of Salt Lake City 02 – a byword for all that was previously wrong with the Games – has questioned Britain’s readiness for the Olympics, asking if we are willing to “celebrate” the great event.
“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. Because in the Games, there are three parts that makes games successful.
“Number one, of course, are the athletes. That’s what overwhelmingly the games are about. Number two are the volunteers. And they’ll have great volunteers here. But number three are the people of the of the country. Do they come together and celebrate the Olympic moment?
“And that’s something which we only find out once the games actually begin.”
Though some may share Romney’s criticisms – not least our own home-grown array of Olympic cynics, sports haters and doom-mongers – it is grossly unstatesmanlike for a foreign political leader, on a visit in which he will hold official meetings with the prime minister and leader of the opposition, to talk down our Olympic spirit and preparedness.
It is doubly ill-advised given this is a man styled as the “public face” of the Salt Lake City Winter Games 10 years ago, “appearing in photographs, news stories and on Olympics pins” – that’s Salt Lake City, the Games that disgraced the history, ideals and spirit of the Olympics, won after one of the most corrupt bidding processes in sporting history.
As the BBC remind us:
The Salt Lake City bid for the 2002 Winter Olympics blew the lid on systematic malpractice within the IOC.
An internal enquiry, launched after revelations from long-serving IOC member Marc Hodler, found clear evidence that up to 20 of the 110 IOC members had been bribed to vote for Salt Lake.
Some had allowed the Salt Lake organisers to pay for their family holidays, others had jobs or university places found for their relatives.
First-class travel was paid for and lavish gifts were the norm. One member’s wife was given free cosmetic surgery.
There were clearly stated rules governing visits by IOC members to bidding cities, but they were widely disregarded, and there was little enforcement.
Thirteen IOC members lost their positions in the investigations that followed.
This is the last man on Earth who should be criticising our spirit, our support, and our desire to make a success of these fairly won Games; roll on tomorrow and let the world see how it’s done.