|Romney criticizes Olympic preparation
Romney criticizes Olympic preparation
WASHINGTON, July 26: US presidential hopeful Mitt Romney made some undiplomatic criticism of London’s preparations for the Olympic Games on Wednesday, expressing concern about Britain’s readiness to host the event, reports AFP
“It’s hard to know just how well it will turn out,” Romney, who is running to unseat President Barack Obama in November’s election, told NBC News from London, where he will attend the opening ceremony of the Games on Friday.
“There are a few things that were disconcerting,” he said.
“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,” he warned.
Romney even called into question whether the British people as a whole were behind the spectacle, saying this would be key to their success. “Do they come together and celebrate the Olympic moment? And that’s something which we only find out once the Games actually begin,” he said.
Romney’s Olympic eye is keener than most. The multimillionaire former businessman and investor was called in to head the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City after preparations were marred by scandal, and has first-hand knowledge of how to put on a successful Olympics.
There have indeed been hiccups in the preparations for the London Games.
Britain rushed to deploy an extra 1,200 troops in London following a shortfall at the Games’ private security contractor G4S, and there was a threat of a strike by British border officials planned for Thursday due to a dispute over jobs, although the labor union called off the strike.
Romney has a personal connection with the London Games. His wife Ann co-owns the horse Rafalca, which will compete in Olympic dressage.
While Ann Romney herself will not ride Rafalca in competition — the horse’s trainer Jan Ebeling will take the reins — she said in June that competing in the Olympics was “a dream come true.”
And yet her husband sounded on NBC like he knew little about competitive dressage, which in London marks its 100th year as an Olympic sport. “I have to tell you. This is Ann’s sport. I’m not even sure which day the sport goes on,” he said.
“She will get the chance to see it, I will not be watching the event.”
Romney travels to Israel after Friday’s opening ceremonies in London.
Romney’s on-air comments followed a previous awkward step in London.
He was already facing criticism over comments made by an unnamed adviser to his campaign, who told The Daily Telegraph newspaper that Romney understands the shared US-British “Anglo-Saxon heritage” better than Obama, the first black US leader.
Romney was asked about the gaffe in the NBC interview. “I don’t agree with whoever that adviser might be,” he said, adding that he believed Obama “understands” the common bond between the United States and Britain.
Romney holds a series of meetings and photo-ops Thursday with top British officials including Prime Minister David Cameron.
Meanwhile, Saudi judoka Wojdan Shaherkani was on Thursday banned from wearing the hijab head scarf when she is fighting at the Olympic Games.
The 18-year-old heavyweight, part of a two-woman team sent from the conservative kingdom to an Olympics for the first time, was ordered by International Judo Federation president Marius Vizer to step onto the mat with her head uncovered.
“The Saudi Arabian athlete will take part in judo and she will fight according to the principle and spirit of judo, so without a hijab,” said Vizer following Thursday’s draw.
Judo applies strict safety rules and any covering on the head is deemed to present a risk to the fighter’s health.
Shaherkani is due to take part in the women’s judo competition on August 3.
Saudi Arabia only agreed to send a women’s team to London on condition that their two athletes respect a strict dress code.
The country’s most senior sports official Prince Nawaf bin Faisal had told local daily Al- Jazirah the two athletes would be allowed to compete as long as they will be “wearing suitable clothing that complies with sharia.”
Additionally he added other stipulations that: “the athlete’s guardian agrees and attends with her,” and “there must also be no mixing with men during the Games”.
Men and women share the judo training venue, warm-up area in the competition hall and fight side-by-side on the various mat areas inside the competition arena.
American-raised 800m runner Sarah Attar is the second woman in the Saudi squad in London.
She has spent little time in the Islamic kingdom and grew up mostly in California, where she took up cross country running.
Attar appears without a headscarf in her official London 2012 photo.
For Shaherkani her participation is also contentious on other safety grounds as she has only been involved in the sport for two years and is not even a black belt.
That means she very likely is nowhere near the level of the international fighters she will be coming up against.
She will fight Puerto Rico’s Melissa Mojica, ranked 13 in the world, in the first round.