On the eve of the Olympic opening ceremonies, Mitt Romney caused a stir Thursday in London with comments that appeared to question the city's preparedness for the games.
"It's hard to know just how well it will turn out," Romney told NBC News in an interview broadcast Wednesday. "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."
Romney, kicking off a visit to Europe that's meant to burnish his foreign policy credentials, was referring to the much publicized failure of a private security company, G4S, to furnish the 10,000 security guards it had agreed to provide security at Olympic venues. The British military had to step in, calling up an additional 3,500 troops last week and 1,200 this week to fill the gap.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee was scheduled to meet with Prime Minister David Cameron and other trop British officials but had barely stepped off the plane in London before newspapers ran with his comments. The Times of London reported, "Mitt Romney questions whether Britain is ready for the Olympic Games."
Later, in a meeting with opposition Labor Party leader Ed Miliband, Romney tried to walk back those comments, telling reporters, "My experience with regards to the Olympics is it is impossible for absolutely no mistakes to occur. Of course there will be errors from time to time, but those are all overshadowed by the extraordinary demonstrations of courage, character and determination by the athletes."
Cameron, the prime minister who has called for the biggest deployment of British security forces ever in peacetime to secure the events for 10,000 athletes and hundreds of thousands of spectators, seemed to take exception to Romney's remarks. Before meeting Romney, Cameron told reporters, "You are going to see beyond doubt that Britain can deliver," the Telegraph newspaper reported.