By Jim Acosta, CNN National Political Correspondent
LONDON (CNN) – Mitt Romney told British leaders he hopes to take in an Olympics swimming competition during his time in London. With no pool in sight, the Republican presidential candidate has already made waves of his own.
Early Thursday morning in the U.K., while much of the U.S. political world was fast asleep, the British press had seized on comments the GOP contender made about London’s preparations for the Olympics.
“You know it’s hard to know just how well it will turn out,” Romney said in an interview with NBC News Wednesday evening. “There are a few things that were disconcerting. The stories about the private security firm not having enough people, the supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials – that obviously is not something which is encouraging.”
“Do they come together and celebrate the Olympic moment?” Romney asked. “That’s something which we only find out once the Games actually begin.”
The headline on the main page for London’s Daily Telegraph news site was not what the Romney campaign had in mind for this visit: “Mitt Romney questions whether Britain is ready for Olympic Games.”
During a visit to London’s chief Olympic stadium, British Prime Minister David Cameron was asked for a response to Romney’s comments. Cameron put diplomacy aside and took direct issue with Romney’s remarks.
“I think we will show the whole world not just that we come together as a United Kingdom but also we’re extremely good at welcoming people from across the world,” Cameron said to reporters just hours before his own scheduled visit with the GOP contender.
“I will obviously make those points to Mitt Romney. I look forward to meeting him,” Cameron added, mentioning the Republican candidate by name.
In what sounded like a jab at Romney’s stewardship of the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, Cameron appeared to draw a contrast between staging the Games in London versus Utah.
“We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world. Of course it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere,” Cameron said.
After his meeting with Cameron, Romney praised British preparations for the Games. Romney then sidestepped a question about whether he intended any criticism of London in his initial comments.
“I’m very delighted with the prospects of a highly successful Olympic Games. What I see shows imagination and forethought and a lot of organization and expect the Games to be highly successful,” Romney said.
That may have been enough to satisfy the British press. The headline on the Telegraph’s site after his meeting with Cameron: “Mitt Romney seeks to play down London 2012 comments”