Park City • Throngs of mostly unwitting tourists cultivated their sporting spirit and taste for all things British Saturday at the London Olympic Celebration at Utah’s Olympic Park.
Most turned out to watch the contortions of American and Australian aerialists training at the park’s splash pool but were happy to join the festivities. And while the presidential election was far from vacationers’ minds, they came with mixed opinions about Mitt Romney’s use of the 2012 Summer Games as a campaign platform.
“I know why he did it. But it’s not going to work,” said 22-year-old Minnesota native Cody Salane of the Romney campaign’s world debut in London. “The Games are supposed to be about the countries and their athletes. It’s wrong to politicize it.”
Said Diane Reuss, 74, from Scottsdale, Ariz.,“It’s in extremely poor taste.”
Others were more forgiving of the presumptive Republican presidential candidate and his widely panned remarks casting doubt on London’s readiness to host the Games.
“The press is making a mountain out of a mole hill,” said Steve Ward, of Baton Rouge, Fla. “It’s a shame politicians can’t be truthful and have to dance around the facts.”
Romney told NBC news he saw “a few things that were disconcerting” about London’s preparations, citing a threatened strike by immigration officials and reports faulting a private security firm for being undermanned.
What he said echoed criticism aired by the Brits themselves. But it didn’t go over well with the press or with Prime Minister David Cameron. “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,” said Cameron, according to The Associated Press.
Cameron apparently was referring to Romney’s lead role in the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. The former Massachusetts governor is widely credited with rescuing the Games from a bid scandal.
“He is a very successful businessman and was successful in turning around the Games here. There’s nothing wrong with working hard and showing results. His remarks may have been ill-timed. But I don’t know anyone who doesn’t make gaffes,” said 58-year-old Scott Stevens, of Charleston, Ill., who favors Romney in the election.
Brent Baker, a transplant to Utah from New Zealand, is undecided. Using the London Games as a bully pulpit wasn’t offensive, “just awkward and a little embarrassing,” said the 42-year-old while munching on pasties and sausage rolls with his family. “It was a lost opportunity.”
Added Jimmy Daniel, of Atlanta: “It shows how politicians should stick to the script. They’re not good at ad-libbing.”
Most of the Utahns at Saturday’s event were playing tour guide to visitors or herding small children through bounce houses and mock sporting events.
Autumn Jennings, of Salt Lake City, came to watch her son, Spencer, test his snowboarding skills on the practice ramp.
“I laughed a little. I mean, our Games were 10 years ago. Enough already,” Jennings said.
“I’m just happy to have this in our backyard with people coming from around the world. It’s just incredible. It’s a great opportunity that so many kids from around here don’t even know they can take advantage of.”