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Mitt Romney is in London today to raise money for his Republican presidential campaign, to meet with former and current British leaders, and to remind voters of his experience running the 2002 winter Olympics. The London games begin tomorrow, and Romney is scheduled to attend the opening ceremonies after meeting with American athletes. The visit highlights a key element in Romney's resume. NPR's Howard Berkes reports from London.
HOWARD BERKES, BYLINE: In early 2002, Mitt Romney went from CEO of the Salt Lake City Olympics...
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MITT ROMNEY: Well, Olympians and people of Salt Lake City, we did it.
BERKES: ...to candidate for Massachusetts governor in just three weeks.
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ROMNEY: I'm in. The bumper stickers have been printed, the website is going up tomorrow morning, the campaign papers are filed today.
BERKES: And rescuing the Salt Lake City Olympics from the biggest ethics scandal in Olympic history became one of candidate Romney's biggest boasts as he ran for governor, and later for president.
ROMNEY: I worked at one company, Bain, for 25 years, and I left that to go off and help save the Olympic games. If I'm president of the United States, I will...
BERKES: So with the London Olympics about to begin, Romney is here highlighting his Olympic pedigree. That's a no-brainer suggests Robert Guest, the business editor at the Economist who covered Romney's 2008 presidential campaign.
ROBERT GUEST: The other two parts of his resume are a bit more controversial. A lot of people don't like what firms like Bain Capital does. A lot of people aren't that keen on Massachusetts, either because they're way to the right of Massachusetts or because they think that he's changed his tone since running the place. But the Olympics is completely uncontroversial. So if you can show that you are competent about the Olympics, is an unambiguously good thing for your campaign.
BERKES: Actually, some are taking Romney's connections to the games and trying to turn them against him. As Romney traveled to London, a superPAC supporting President Obama released an ad that uses the opening ceremony of the 2002 Olympics to accuse Romney of sending jobs overseas and parking his money in foreign banks.
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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Welcome to the Olympics. There's Mitt Romney who ran the Salt Lake City games waving to China, home to a billion people. Thousands owe their jobs to Mitt Romney's companies.
BERKES: The Romney campaign has said that any shipping of jobs overseas did not happen while Romney while actively managing Bain Capital. His visit to London also revives questions about how much credit he deserves for helping save the Olympics, as he put. International Olympic officials and some Olympic reports insist Romney should get credit. But Olympic historian David Wallechinsky says it's an inflated claim.
DAVID WALLECHINSKY: This is ridiculous. You have a movement which had already survived two world wars, four major boycotts, a terrorist attack and, you know, he comes along and saves the Olympic movement because of a financial scandal? I don't think so.
BERKES: Wallechinsky also notes that the appearances in London may bring Olympic attention Romney doesn't want. His wife Ann is part owner of a horse entered in the dressage competition, a sport that costs tens of thousands of dollars in expenses, underscoring the wealth of the Romneys. In an interview last night posted on nbcnightlynews.com, Romney put some distance between him and the horse.
ROMNEY: This is Ann's sport. I'm not even sure which day the sport goes on. She will get the chance to see it. I will not be watching the event. I hope her horse does well, but just the honor of being here and representing our country and seeing the other Olympians is something which I'm sure that people that are associated with this are looking forward to.
BERKES: Associating with Olympic athletes who are often respected and revered is on Romney's agenda tomorrow. He meets and greets American Olympians tomorrow afternoon. First lady Michelle Obama does the same thing in the morning. After the opening ceremony tomorrow night, Romney continues his overseas trip, meeting with current and former leaders of Israel and Poland. Howard Berkes, NPR News, London.
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