(ATR) The former president of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics is said to be the top prospect for Secretary of State in the cabinet of President Donald Trump.
Mitt Romney met with Trump for about an hour last weekend to talk about the job. Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is also said to be under consideration.
Romney, 69, the unsuccessful Republican candidate for the 2012 U.S. presidential election, did not run for 2016. Instead he was one of the strident opponents to Trump within the GOP, calling the now-president elect “a fraud” in one speech this year. Those differences would seem to make improbable a match between the two men for a cabinet appointment with the sensitivities that come with the Department of State. By comparison Giuliani has been an ardent Trump supporter throughout the campaign.
Trump loyalists such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich have been urging the president-elect not to select Romney for the post. Earlier today, however, Trump named South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley as U.N. ambassador. While a Republican, Haley has also been a critic of Trump, perhaps not as sharply as has Romney.
Mitt Romney in 2001. (Getty Images)
“Mitt is an extraordinary leader. He would be a superb Secretary of State,” Fraser Bullock tells Around the Rings
. Bullock served as chief operating officer of the Salt Lake City Olympics, hired by Romney to lead the 2002 organizing committee from a potential $200 million dollar deficit to a surplus.
“It will be interesting how this plays out. The international—and Olympic—communities have a high regard for Mitt. He could be an asset to any U.S. bid, including L.A. which is upon us. I suspect, however, that he would be deeply engaged with the issues at hand for quite a while,” observes Bullock.
Indeed, the next U.S. Secretary of State will be dealing with the Syrian civil war, relations with Russia and the U.S. role in the world’s refugee crisis among the hot button issues. But the Secretary of State in the new Trump administration will also be paying some attention to diplomatic initiatives around the U.S. Olympic bid, which will require tact and sensitivity to IOC rules that ban embassy contact with IOC members. The IOC will choose the 2024 host Sep. 13 in Lima, Peru. Budapest and Paris are the other two candidates.
But in addition to the kind of back channel communications available to a secretary of state, the Department of State carries out programs in sports diplomacy that can help curry favor in countries around the globe. The State Department is also the agency that oversees the issuance of visas needed by some athletes and sports officials to visit the U.S. for training or meetings.
Romney’s familiarity with the Olympic Movement could make him the administration’s point-person on the Los Angeles bid, a unique background among the government leaders involved with the two rival 2024 bids.
The Olympics are but one chapter in Romney’s life story. Born in Michigan, his father was governor of the state and tried to run for U.S. president in 1968. Mitt Romney earned a law degree from Harvard and made his mark and millions in the mergers and acquisitions business. He was unsuccessful in a bid for the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts that was followed in 1999 with his recruitment to rescue the scandal-stricken Salt Lake City Olympics.
A month after the close of the Games in 2002 Romney returned to Boston to launch a campaign as a Republican for governor in a state that is famously Democrat. Romney won and served a single four-year term that was followed by two campaigns for the U.S. presidency in 2008 and 2012.
Mitt and Ann Romney at the London Olympics. (Getty Images)
As is customary for heads of organizing committees, Romney has been invited to successive Olympics after Salt Lake City. He’s been to Athens, Turin, Beijing, Vancouver and London, missing Sochi and Rio de Janeiro.
For a potential diplomat-in-chief, it should be noted that Romney’s visit to London in 2012 did not go well. In a TV interview he raised concerns about security preparations, a gaffe that drew the ire of British Prime Minister David Cameron who snarkily referred to the Salt Lake City Olympics as “in the middle of nowhere”. Still, among the possible nominees mentioned for top jobs in the Trump White House, only Romney brings deep experience and familiarity with the Olympics.
“Mitt would be a great Secretary of State, and he understands the Olympics very well,” observes LA 2024 CEO Gene Sykes.
Regardless of the choice for Secretary of State, Sykes says Los Angeles will depend on President Trump for support. Although Trump has yet to publicly endorse the U.S. bid, Sykes says he’s been assured by the transition team that the new U.S. President stands ready to back Los Angeles for the 2024 Olympics.
Written by Ed Hula.
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