Romney Messes up in Great Britain
David Cameron with Lord Coe at the Olympic Park. Photograph: Suzanne Plunkett/ReutersThe prime minister has hit back at comments from the US presidential candidate Mitt Romney querying Britain's readiness for the Olympics, urging the country to "put its best foot forward" and ensure they are remembered as "the friendly Games".
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On a visit to the Olympic Park with the London 2012 organising committee chairman, Lord Coe, before Friday's opening ceremony, Cameron said the Games were an opportunity to promote Britain despite the gloomy economic backdrop.
"This is a time of some economic difficulty for the nation, everyone knows that. But look at what we're capable of achieving even at a difficult economic time. Look at this extraordinary Olympic Park, built from nothing in seven years," he said.
Romney said the fallout from the G4S security fiasco and a threatened strike by immigration officials were "disconcerting" and questioned whether British people would get behind the Games.
"Do they come together and celebrate the Olympic moment? And that's something which we only find out once the Games actually begin. It is hard to know just how well it will turn out," said Romney.
But Cameron, who was due to meet Romney later on Thursday, said: "In terms of people coming together, the torch relay demonstrated that this is not a London Games, this is not an England Games but this is a United Kingdom Games. We'll show the world we've not only come together as a United Kingdom but are extremely good at welcoming people from across the world."
Cameron said he was going to make this point to Romney when he met him later on Thursday.
Coe said more than 13 million people had now seen the torch relay, currently in central London on the penultimate leg of its 70-day journey around the UK.
The prime minister, with an allusion to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which London organisers have in some ways defined themselves in opposition to, said it was "not a state-run Games, it is a people-run Games."
He said the 250,000 applications for 70,000 volunteer places, plus the 8,000 ambassadors recruited by the London mayor, Boris Johnson, also showed the enthusiasm of the British public.
"It is about the people of the UK showing a really warm welcome and showing respect for all the teams and all the nationalities who come here," he said.
Cameron, who had spent the morning at a trade conference and has claimed £1bn in extra investment will be attracted by the Games, also expanded on the view of Britain he hoped the Olympics would present to the world.
"I think this is a big opportunity for Britain to put its best foot forward and say that if you want to start a business, come and visit. I hope people will see, yes, a great past, but also huge opportunities," he said.
SOURCE: Guardian CO.UK - Owen Gibson
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