From Comcast SportsNet
LONDON (AP) -- Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney, on a trip already marked by his misstep of calling some of London's Olympics issues "disconcerting," has an Olympic history of his own that could prove problematic: His management of the 2002 Winter Games was not without controversy.
Romney was set to attend Friday's opening ceremony of the London Games on the first part of a three-nation tour that will take him to Israel and Poland. The itinerary is designed to test Romney's diplomatic skills and political strengths as he challenges President Barack Obama in the November election.
Romney's political career was born out of his leading role at the Salt Lake City Games, which were plagued by scandal before he was chosen to take over.
On Friday, he said "it looks to me like London is ready," although he observed in an NBC interview that "it is hard to put on the Games in a major metropolitan area."
Romney has been trying to soften his earlier criticism of London's preparation for the games, in which he called problems such as late-developing security issues "disconcerting." British leaders jumped on the remark, with Prime Minister David Cameron saying, "Of course it's easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere."
London Mayor Boris Johnson told tens of thousands gathered in Hyde Park: "There's a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know if we are ready. Are we ready? Yes we are!"
Former U.S. gold medalist Carl Lewis told The Independent newspaper, "I swear, sometimes I think some Americans shouldn't leave the country."
Asked Friday about the stir his remarks caused, Romney replied, "I'm absolutely convinced that the people here are ready for the Games, and in just a few moments, all the things the politicians say will be swept away" by excitement over the competition.
The Olympic focus also brought fresh attention to Romney's actions in Utah a decade ago.
"The country is in need of a turnaround. The Olympics was a turnaround," Romney told CNN in an interview broadcast as London slept early Friday morning. "The attacks that come by people who are trying to knock down my business career, or my Olympic experience, or our success, those attacks are not going to be successful."
Such attacks have been plentiful in recent months. Democrats and even some Republicans have criticized Romney for taking credit for the 2002 games' success while relying on federal funding to help cover costs as the Salt Lake Olympics sought to recover from financial mismanagement and corruption.
"One of the things he talks about most is how he heroically showed up on the scene and bailed out and resolved the problems of the Salt Lake City Olympic Games," Rick Santorum, now a Romney supporter, said in February when he opposed Romney for the Republican nomination. "He heroically bailed out the Salt Lake City Olympic Games by heroically going to Congress and asking them for tens of millions of dollars to bail out the Salt Lake Games -- in an earmark."
By Romney's account, the government spent about 600 million helping the Salt Lake Olympic Committee. He has made himself the very public face of the effort, claiming that he personally cut millions from the budget, wooed major companies and won sponsorships himself and pulled the whole endeavor back from the brink of failure. His record in Salt Lake was the cornerstone of his run for governor in Massachusetts, a campaign he announced just weeks after the games concluded.
Romney, who promises to slash federal spending if elected president, rarely acknowledges the federal support for the 2002 games on the campaign trail. His aides say much of it was for increased security costs after the 2001 terrorist attacks, which occurred about five months earlier.
Romney doesn't elaborate on his role in persuading congressional appropriators and critics to give the games more money.
In the 2004 book he wrote about the games, "Turnaround," Romney mentioned one of the lessons he learned: "If you work at it long enough, there is always another way to get the help you need in Washington."