After his questioning London's preparedness for the Olympics became front-page tabloid fodder, Mitt Romney spoke out on the gaffe Friday.
“I read the same reports I think a lot of people did about all the challenges being faced by the organizing committee, but after being here a couple of days, it looks like London is ready,’’ Romney told Matt Lauer in an interview alongside his wife at TODAY's London set. “I’m absolutely convinced the people here are ready for the Games.’’
In an interview Wednesday with NBC’s Brian Williams, Romney ignited London headlines like Friday’s “Mitt the Twit” in The Sun when he wondered aloud whether the security and infrastructure of the city was ready for the Games. It was a poorly-timed stumble, as Romney is on a diplomatic journey to the United Kingdom, Israel and Poland.
“It’s hard to know just how well it will turn out,’’ Romney told Williams. “There are a few things that were disconcerting — stories about the private security firm not having enough people, a supposed strike of the immigrations and customs officials that obviously is not something which is encouraging.’’
That prompted a thinly-veiled shot by British prime minister David Cameron, who alluded to Romney’s role in organizing the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
“We’re holding an Olympic games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world,’’ Cameron said in a statement. “Of course, it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere.’’
Video: London mayor: Venues 'as safe as we can make them'
“Of course it is hard to put on Games in a major metropolitan area,’’ Romney told Lauer. “What they’ve done that I find so impressive is they took the venues and put them right in the city. You’re going to be able to be just in the backside of 10 Downing Street for beach volleyball.
“In just a few moments, all the things politicians say will get swept away because the athletes finally take the stage. The Games are about the athletes. That’s why the Games virtually anywhere they’ve been have been highly successful.’’
The Romneys have a direct connection to the competition, as Ann Romney’s horse, Rafalca, will compete in the Olympic event of dressage.
“Watching my horse, it’s like watching your children play sports,’’ Ann told Lauer. “I know every move that she makes, I know when she makes mistakes, I know what her weaknesses are, I know where she may lose the confidence of the rider a little bit. It is nerve-wracking.’’
Mitt will not watch his wife’s horse compete due to his schedule during the diplomatic visit, but he knows her passion for the competition. He joked that one year his sons gave him a rubber horse mask to wear so that Ann would pay more attention to him.
“I give him a pass when it comes to my horses because he’s so, so supportive of me, having to put up with my love of horses,’’ Ann said.
The multi-millionaire former governor has come under scrutiny for the lack of transparency with his personal finances and taxes. He told Lauer that releasing any more information than what is required will give his opposition a chance to use it against him.
“We just laid out exactly what is required by law, which is all of our financial statements and then in addition, two years of tax reports just like John McCain put out,’’ he said. “We looked at what he did, and we’ve done the same thing. It’s hundreds of pages of documents, and my guess is if you decide to do more and more and more, you just give, if you will, the opposition a chance to distort and twist and be dishonest about more material.’’
At the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., from Aug. 27-30, Romney will officially receive his party’s nomination for president. He knows the themes of his nomination speech, but has not put pen to paper yet.
“It will be a great moment and it will be an opportunity to talk about who we are, but also our vision for the country,’’ Mitt said. “I think this has to be an American century as we go forward. I’m concerned that we’re drifting in a direction right now that is not showing the best side of America.’’
“I think it’s an extraordinary responsibility that both of us have right now that we can represent the world in such an important and significant way,’’ Ann said. “I think it will be an opportunity for the first time for the American people to really take a look at us as people, as individuals and who we really are and what motivates us. For me, it’s going to be a moment of great pride.’’
Before he has to worry about making more difficult political decisions, Romney was put on the spot by Lauer for a more pressing decision: Will it be Michael Phelps or Ryan Lochte when they swim head-to-head?
“I think it’s more likely to be Phelps, but I don’t know,’’ he laughed.
More: Video: Romney's Olympics comment irks BritishAnn Romney's horse heading to London to go for Olympic gold Romney wears his BBQ stains as a badge of honor Romney sons defend dad, say goofiness is part of his charm Bill Clinton: Romney investment queries are 'relevant' to election