Mitt touts Olympics, resume (Politico)
SALT LAKE CITY — Mitt Romney took a brief respite from regular campaign events to commemorate the 2002 Olympic games here, paying tribute to a part of his biography that is central to his presidential bid.
“The games were a showcase for the great qualities of the human spirit: we saw in the athletes the determination, courage, teamwork, character, faith,” he told former Salt Lake Olympic Committee members at a reception here Saturday evening. “What I didn’t realize at the time we made that decision was it was not just the athletes who would show determination and courage, loyalty and faith and patriotism, it would also be the people in this room.”
Romney reminisced about the 2002 Olympics, thanking different teams and volunteers for their efforts. He did not mention his presidential bid at all during his remarks here.
“These were the most inspirational games I’ve ever seen,” he said. “What I learned from the games is there’s power in unity — we came together as one people, not caring about who got credit but caring about putting on the best games in the history of sports. I will always be proud, proudest of having been part of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.”
The Republican’s remarks came during the first of two events held on Saturday to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the winter Olympic games here. Romney also attended a tribute event later Saturday night, where he was introduced by ice-skater Kristi Yamaguchi and received a standing ovation.
The visit by the Republican presidential candidate — who served as president and CEO of the 2002 Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the Olympic games — wasn’t overtly political. Utah, with its June 26 contest, is the last state to vote in the GOP primary, and its heavily Mormon population make it a near certainty that Romney will win here.
But in another way, today’s anniversary events are just as significant for Romney’s campaign — the former venture capitalist’s success in managing the 2002 Olympics is central to his campaign’s core message and his strengths as a candidate, and his appearance at the commemoration highlights him paying homage to that record.
On the trail, Romney frequently invokes his experience heading the Olympic effort in stump speeches.
Romney became head of the Olympic games in early 1999, after financial scandal threatened to hurt the games’ credibility, and has been widely credited with the event’s turnaround. The reversal of the games’ fortunes fits neatly into his campaign resume as a successful businessman and turnaround artist who, if installed in the White House, will, he argues, reverse what he says is the country’s decline.
On the night he won the Florida primary last month, Romney told the crowd that his “leadership helped save the Olympics from scandal and give our American athletes the chance to make us all proud.”
And with the rise of Rick Santorum, Romney’s past as a successful manager — of the Olympics, Bain Capital and the state of Massachusetts — has become an even more central point of contrast between Romney and his competition.