Games kick off with diplomatic controversy

Games kick off with diplomatic controversy

WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
Games kick off with diplomatic controversy

US First Lady Michelle Obama plays tennis with children in London. AP Photo

Salt Lake City’s mayor extended a tongue-in-cheek invitation on July 26 to host British Prime Minister David Cameron, offering him a map to show him where the “middle of nowhere” is.

The taunt was the latest salvo in a transatlantic heated exchange over the Olympics.

It all started when US presidential hopeful Mitt Romney made some ill-advised remarks about London’s Olympic preparations after arriving in Britain on the first-stop of an international tour designed to showcase his diplomatic skills.

Within hours of landing, NBC television broadcast an interview in which Romney, a Republican, said it was “hard to know just how well” the Olympics will turn out and said there were “a few things that were disconcerting.” He even questioned the British Olympic spirit, adding: “Do they come together and celebrate the Olympic moment? That’s something which we only find out once the Games actually begin.”

Romney backtracked from his initial comments, saying “After being here a couple of days, it looks to me like London is ready.”

First lady in action

Meanwhile, Michelle Obama formally opened her stint as leader of the U.S. Olympics delegation on July 27, attending a breakfast with Olympians and saying she was “just in awe” of their company.

The U.S. first lady mingled with the athletes afterward, shaking hands and sharing hugs with dozens who had signed up to attend.

“Try to have fun. Try to breathe a little bit,” Mrs. Obama said. “But also win, right?”

Later, the first lady met with hundreds of children on the lavish grounds of Winfield House, the official residence of the U.S. ambassador in London.

Football icon David Beckham appeared alongside the first lady, Olympic gold-medal sprinter Carl Lewis signed autographs, and ex-NBA star Dikembe Mutombo offered the kids - most of them from U.S. military families - tips on basketball.

“I’m so excited,” she said, after to jogging to the stage as a marching band played the University of Florida fight song. “I am thrilled to be here on London for the 2012 Olympic games. I am proud to be leading the U.S. delegation to the opening ceremony.”