Leading the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City out of disfunction is a sterling bullet point on Mitt Romney's resume that his campaign has consistently fallen back on while skating away from dicier issues like his time at Bain Capital or alleged "flip-flopping" on social issues. The experience leading an event embodying patriotism and love of sports has come up more prominently in the news of late, as London launches the thirtieth summer games this week.
But how much does America really know about what Romney did as President and CEO of the Winter Olympics that shows us how he would govern?
Romney has found himself in a soundbite scuffle with Conservative Party British Prime Minister David Cameron over the last 48 hours, first saying during an interview with NBC’s Brian Williams that several logistical issues at the 2012 Olympic games were “disconcerting."
To that, Cameron quickly responded Thursday;“We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world. Of course it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere,” which some have perceived as a swipe at Salt Lake City.
Romney's campaign website references his time in Salt Lake City shortly, equating it to his tenure as Governor in Massachusetts; "In one chapter of his distinguished career, he reversed the decline of a state mired in recession. In another chapter, he salvaged the 2002 Winter Olympic Games from certain disaster."
The pro-Obama Super PAC "Priorities USA" released a new attack ad this week, splicing video footage of Romney acting as president of the Salt Lake City games while referencing familiar attacks against Romney shipping jobs overseas, Swiss bank accounts, and secret Bermuda companies. The ad did last long though, as the Super PAC removed the video from their website within one day at the request of the U.S. Olympic Committee.
The Wall Street Journal published a report Tuesday examining Romney's role in the 2002 games, noting that when the future Republican presidential candidate took over the troubled Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, it was tainted by allegations of corruption and facing a widening budget hole. The Journal reports that to get the games back on track, Romney immediately made cuts to programs on cultural-education and free catered lunched for committee board meetings, going on to balance the games' budget through a $2 million cut to youth camp, cutting wetlands restoration, and scaling back the decorations budget to $6 million from more than $20 million. When Romney arrived, the games were running $387 million short of reaching their planned budget of $1.45 billion. When the games ended, Romney was left with a $100 million surplus.
Based in Salt Lake City, the Deseret News is currently running a two part series on Mitt Romney's role in the 2002 Olympics and what it might teach us about how he would govern and manage crises as president. Read an excerpt from part one below:
Both supporters and critics of Romney's three years as the CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee say his experiences in Utah offer insights into what he would bring to the White House.
Utahns say they miss Romney's self-effacing sense of humor, evident with the unveiling of an Olympic pin proclaiming “Mitt happens,” and his joining in a champagne toast to an inclusive rather than a “Mormon" Olympics — with a flute of orange juice.
Lost in the presidential campaign is the charisma that Romney — the man brought in as the “White Knight” to save the Games — used to win over critics and woo new supporters following revelations that Utah bidders tried to buy the votes of International Olympic Committee members.
Romney the candidate has been criticized for being disconnected from voters because of his privileged background and personal wealth. He’s made clumsy references on the campaign trail to his wife’s pair of Cadillacs and his friendships with NASCAR owners rather than car racing fans.
Just about everything on Romney's resume, from his prep school antics to his time as the head of Bain Capital, has been attacked first during the hard-fought GOP primary race and now by President Barack Obama's re-election effort.
So just what was Romney's approach as he took over the 2002 Winter Games amid bribery allegations that challenged an Olympic world centered around money and power?
The report goes on to quote colleagues of Romney's while running the games, the liberal Mayor of Salt Lake City at the time, and Salt Lake Olympic committee advisors among others, questioning their opinion of how Romney ran the games and how it could transition to his duties if elected president.