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Head of Salt Lake Games Hopes Beijing Gets Chance

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The head of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for February’s Winter Games said Paris is his sentimental favorite and Toronto is grand, but the International Olympic Committee ought to give “full consideration” to Beijing’s bid for the 2008 Olympics.

Mitt Romney, a venture capitalist now in charge of preparations for the Salt Lake City Games, stressed that he was not formally endorsing Beijing’s candidacy.

But he said: “Our world is in unusual and fortuitous circumstance. All the major powers are at peace. And in such a time, in my view, we should be building bridges, not walls.

“The Olympics builds bridges. For this reason Beijing’s bid shouldn’t be discarded and should be seriously considered along with those of the other bid cities.”

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Romney has no vote in Friday’s IOC election for the 2008 Games site. Nor does he wield formal influence.

But his unsolicited remarks, made at the end of a news conference and repeated in follow-up questioning, underscored increasing U.S. acceptance of the Beijing bid.

The comments also marked yet another bold move by the business executive who through decisive steps has turned SLOC around since taking it over 2 1/2 years ago at the height of the IOC’s corruption scandal.

Since coming to SLOC, Romney repeatedly has been unafraid to show leadership by speaking out on issues, even if his comments invite controversy.

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He said Wednesday, “We will never avoid having critics. The pioneers used to say, ‘Let the dogs bark. The caravan moves on.’ ”

Meantime, just before Romney spoke, Moscow police broke up a protest against Beijing’s bid staged by Tibetan activists. Several people were detained, including one journalist.


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