Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, has questioned Britain’s preparedness to host the Olympics and asked whether the country is genuinely prepared to “celebrate” the Games.Mr Romney, who was chief executive of the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002, spoke on the first day of a visit to Britain.
He will meet the British political leadership in London on Thursday, including David Cameron, the prime minister, and Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister. Mr Romney is then expected to attend the Olympics opening ceremony on Friday.
But he told US television there were “disconcerting” signs about Britain’s readiness. “It’s hard to know just how well it will turn out,” he said. “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.”
G4S, a private security company, provided thousands fewer staff than were expected, forcing the armed forces to fill the gap . British immigration officers had threatened to go on strike during the Olympics, but this ultimatum was called off on Wednesday. The Government insists that all preparations have been made and the event will be a success.
Nonetheless, Mr Romney questioned the enthusiasm of the British public. “Do they come together and celebrate the Olympic moment?” he asked. “That’s something which we only find out once the Games actually begin.”
The comments came after Mr Romney’s advisers told The Daily Telegraph that he would restore “Anglo-Saxon” understanding to the special relationship between the US and Britain, and return Sir Winston Churchill’s bust to the White House.
However, Mr Romney will receive a lukewarm reception in London. He is meeting every senior British politician, including Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, but the current Government has a close relationship with President Barack Obama.
The US administration took the unusual step of making this point during Mr Romney’s visit.
A statement from Joe Biden, the Vice President, said: “Our special relationship with the British is stronger than ever and we are proud to work hand-in-hand with Prime Minister Cameron to confront every major national security challenge we face today.”
Mr Cameron declined to see Mr Romney during a visit to Washington earlier this year. He will greet the Republican candidate inside 10 Downing Street, but there will be no handshake for the cameras outside the front door.
Mr Romney, for his part, has portrayed Europe as a prime example of everything the United States must avoid. “We’re at a point here where we have two different roads we can go down,” he said on Wednesday. “One leads to Europe. The other leads to the kind of dynamism and prosperity which has always characterised America.”
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