Cameron to Romney: We're ready for the Olympics

Mitt Romney arrives in Downing Street to meet with British Prime Minister David Cameron on July 26, 2012 in London, England.
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Mitt Romney arrives in Downing Street to meet with British Prime Minister David Cameron on July 26, 2012 in London, England.
Getty Images

British Prime Minister David Cameron has offered up a defense of the London Olympics in response to a questioning comment from Mitt Romney - and suggested that Romney had a much easier time overseeing the 2002 Olympics because they took place in "the middle of nowhere."

Speaking to NBC News in London on Wednesday, Romney said "there are a few things that were disconcerting" about the London Games, which begin Friday.

"Private security firm not having enough people, the supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials, that obviously is not something which is encouraging," Romney said.

Romney also questioned whether the British people will pull together and support the Games. Londoners have complained about traffic hassles and other inconveniences tied to the Olympics.

"Do they come together and celebrate the Olympic moment? And that's something which we only find out once the games actually begin," Romney said.

(Watch a clip of Cameron's remark in the video to the left.)

On Thursday, Cameron said skeptics are "going to see beyond doubt that Britain can deliver." He said he would send a positive message to Romney about the Games in their meeting after the remarks.

Cameron noted that "people have to be prepared for some difficulties" at the Games because they are taking place in a large and crowded city. He then suggested that Romney, who oversaw the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, had an easier job than the organizers of the London Games.

"We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world," said the British prime minister. "Of course it's easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere."

UPDATE, 12:50 p.m. Eastern Time: Video of the incident shows that Cameron was not asked directly about the Romney comment before his "middle of nowhere" statement. Cameron was asked, "What impression do you hope that people will take away from the Games? Both from the Opening Ceremony and from the Games themselves?"

But the comments are already generating a strong response. Salt Lake City Mayor's office responded to Cameron with this statement, per Buzzfeed: "While those of us who have had the fortune of visiting London know it is certainly a wonderful city, Prime Minister Cameron's comments likely reflect his lack of familiarity with Salt Lake City."

"He can stop by any time. We'd love to have him and are happy to send a map so he doesn't run into any trouble locating the middle of nowhere," added a spokesman for the mayor.

Meanwhile, Romney was asked about the dustup after his meeting with Cameron.

(Watch Romney's response in the video to the left.)

"My experience as an Olympic organizer is that there are always a few very small things that end up going not quite right in the first day or so," he said. "Those get ironed out and then when the games themselves begin and the athletes take over all the mistakes that the organizing committee, and I made a few, all of those are overwhelmed by the many things that the athletes carry out that capture the spirit of the games. So I don't know of any Olympics that's been able to be run without any mistakes whatsoever but they're small and I was encouraged for instance to see that something that could have represented a real challenge which was immigration and customs officers on duty that is something that is something which was resolved and people are all pulling together."

UPDATE, 3:15 p.m. Eastern Time: London Mayor Boris Johnson, a member of the Conservative Party, also weighed in on Romney's comments at a pre-opening ceremonies rally, calling out Romney to a fired up crowd.

(Watch Johnson's comment in the video to the left.)

"People are coming from around the world and they're seeing (us) and they're seeing the greatest city on earth - aren't they? And there are some people who are coming from around the world who don't yet know about all the preparations we've done to get London ready in the last 7 years," Johnson said.

"I hear there's a guy, there's a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we're ready - he wants to know whether we're ready. Are we ready? Are we ready? Yes we are!" he added to cheers from the crowd.