London Mayor Hits Back at Romney: ‘We Are Ready!’
Assistant News Editor, CNBC.com
London Mayor Boris Johnson hit back at U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Friday, saying the city was as prepared as ever for the Olympic Games.
Romney ruffled British feathers on Thursday by telling NBC News that London might not be ready for the games.
"It's hard to know just how well it will turn out … There are a few things that were disconcerting," including the threat of a strike by immigration and customs officials, he said, attracting a defensive reaction from the British press, the general public and politicians.
“London is as ready as any other city has ever been in the history of the Olympic Games,” Johnson said. “All the signs I’ve got from the army, from the police, from everyone involved in protecting the venues is that it’s all going very, very well.”
He added quickly that “the transport system is going very well,” too, reflecting a particular worry for Londoners and organizers alike that travel chaos will reign for the duration of the Olympics. There are fears of chaos at London’s Heathrow airport as well as concerns over overcrowding across the underground system, despite upgrades and supplementary services.
Prime Minister David Cameron remarked shortly Romney's remarks that the candidate, who had organized the Winter Games in Salt Lake City in 2002, had had an easier task as those Games had been staged “in the middle of nowhere.”
"We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world," the Conservative prime minister said during a news conference at the Olympic Park in London. "Of course, it is easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere."
And Mayor Boris Johnson got in on the act asking crowds gathered for a torch relay party in central London’s Hyde Park, whether London was ready.
"I hear there's a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we're ready," Johnson said.
"He wants to know whether we're ready," Johnson called out to a cheering crowd of thousands. "Are we ready? Are we ready? Yes, we are," cueing chants of “Boris! Boris!” from the crowds.
Known for his rather crudely-cut mop of blonde hair and straight-speaking manner, Johnson told CNBC that everything was going well in the run-up to Friday’s Opening Ceremony.
“It’s a very tense moment but I’m cautiously optimistic,” he said.
At three hours long, costing 27 million pounds ($42.3 million) and involving over 25,000 participants, a lot is riding on the Opening Ceremony — and if anything goes wrong, four billion people will be watching.
After 24 rehearsals, the hope is that everything will go to plan and Johnson, widely known to the British public and press as “Boris,” remained upbeat and confident.
“I’m just worried that I don’t have enough to worry about!" he said.