Romney Slams Wasteful Russian Spending on Sochi Olympics

Wednesday, 12 Feb 2014 06:25 PM

By Cathy Burke

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Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is sounding much like he did on the 2012 presidential campaign trail, taking on unfettered spending and waste at the Sochi Winter Olympics.

The ex-Massachusetts governor is blasting Russia and other countries for using public money to pay for lavish venues, saying the over-the-top spending comes with a $50 billion price tag at Sochi that damages the Games' image.

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"Waste is harm, particularly when need is as great as it is. Harm occurs when a country spends more than it can afford to keep up appearances with the big spenders," he wrote in a USA Today opinion piece that appeared online Tuesday night.

"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."

Romney, who often spoke of his success in running the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City while on the campaign stump, wonders now whether the expense is "worth it."

"Every two years, Olympic critics argue that the money should be better spent on causes such as fighting poverty and disease," he wrote. "I am a staunch defender of the Olympics, but I think it's time to draw spending boundaries."

"Arguably, the Olympics would be worth every penny if the spending were absolutely necessary. But it's not," he wrote.

Romney speculated that the overspending is partly because of "public-sector inefficiency" and "corruption."

"But the big difference is that government personalities are promoting themselves and their country with someone else's money," he wrote. "Governments don't have to stick to a budget: if something costs more than planned, well, they just spend more . . . You meet the budget or you meet the bankruptcy judge."

He called for spending on the sport rather than "showing off the country and its politicians."

He called for the International Olympic Committee to set budget limits and award the games "only to countries that demonstrate that they will live within them."

On Wednesday, Boston Globe columnist Tom Keane noted the "excitement over Mitt" as a possible 2016 presidential contender, saying he might "well make a good president."

Last month, the National Journal gushed, "We might be experiencing Mittmentum 3.0," referring to a Purple Strategies poll from New Hampshire that showed Romney leading possible GOP presidential contenders with 25 percent support.

But Beth Myers, Romney's former adviser, said last month she doubts Romney is interested in another shot at the White House. 

"When asked . . . whether he’d consider a run in 2016, he said, 'No, no, no, no, no,'" she said of his reply to The New York Times on the question.

"I take him at his word, but it’s sure nice to know that he’s missed."

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