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Mitt Romney: Time to limit countries' spending on Olympics

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said Sunday that it may be time for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to limit a country’s spending on the Olympic games, given the astronomical cost of the competition currently under way in Sochi, Russia.

Romney, whose leadership was credited with rescuing the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City from the brink of financial ruin, said it’s difficult to justify Sochi’s $50 billion price tag with so much poverty in the world.

“You don't need to spend $50 billion, as Russia has or as China did, to put [on] an Olympic sport,” Romney said on NBC’s "Meet the Press." “Olympic sport can be demonstrated at $2 billion or $3 billion, and all that extra money could be used to do some very important things in terms of fighting poverty and fighting disease around the world.”

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 “That's what we really ought to be using those resources for as opposed to wasting them in many cases to show off a country, or I think more cynically, to show off the politicians in the country,” he added. “And to take money from some people so that politicians can be puffed up and shown around the world, I think, is something which is a very distasteful at a time when there's so much poverty and so much need.”

Romney also echoed the widely-held belief that much of Sochi’s cost could be due to “corruption” or clientelism in Russia.

The former governor first raised the issue in an op-ed on Tuesday calling on the IOC to impose “spending boundaries” on host countries.

“Waste is harm, particularly when need is as great as it is,” he wrote in USA Today. “Harm occurs when a country spends more than it can afford to keep up appearances with the big spenders. Harm occurs when a country is excluded from hosting an Olympics because it can't afford the fabulous frills. And harm occurs when the world's poor look in anguish at the excess.”

He proposed a series of spending limits, saying the games should only be awarded to countries that pledge to “live within” the allotted budget. He also warned that the IOC would need an independent analysis to flag candidate countries that might try to “fudge their budgets.”

Romney, who was also the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, was also asked about the contours of the 2016 presidential race, and whether former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should be judged on the sexual indiscretion of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, if she runs again.

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“I don't think Bill Clinton is as relevant as Hillary Clinton if Hillary Clinton decides to run for president,” Romney said, drawing a soft distinction with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who recently suggested that Mr. Clinton’s conduct could be an issue if his wife decides to run again.

“I think Hillary Clinton, if she becomes a nominee, will have plenty to discuss about her own record. I don't imagine that Bill Clinton is going to be a big part of it,” Romney said. “That being said, the times when he was President were by and large positive economic times for the country. On the other hand, he embarrassed the nation. He breached his responsibility I think as an adult and as a leader in his relationship. And I think that's very unfortunate, but I don't think that's Hillary Clinton's to explain.”

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