Kenny meets Romney, Queen and world leaders on one long 'outstanding' day
OLYMPICS PRAISED:SOMETIMES, A politician shows others what not to do. Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday met US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, but he made sure that he did not follow the American’s lead.
On Thursday, Romney, who was in London for the opening of the Olympics, infuriated his hosts when he raised questions about London’s preparedness.
Kenny, on the other hand, went out of his way to praise when he visited the Irish Olympic camp in St Mary’s College, Twickenham, yesterday.
Everything was “outstanding” in the eyes of the Taoiseach, who later met Queen Elizabeth II in Buckingham Palace before travelling with other world leaders on a bus to the Olympic Park for last night’s opening ceremony.
The Romney gaffe has led to gleeful attacks from the Barack Obama campaign back in the US, arguing that it shows the Republican is an amateur in the field of foreign affairs.
By yesterday afternoon the Romney campaign was taking no chances, though the candidate was jeered by some Londoners as he walked to the Irish Embassy to meet the Taoiseach.
The meeting had been requested by former US Northern Ireland peace negotiator Mitchell Reiss on behalf of Mr Romney, not by the Irish side.
Inside the embassy, the two men talked about US/Irish relations, with Mr Kenny emphasising Ireland’s holding of the European Union presidency next year.
Earlier in Twickenham, Mr Kenny went to lengths to ensure that no one in Downing Street was unhappy with his description of the preparations for the Games.
“My sense is that the planning that has gone into this has been quite extraordinary. I think this will be an outstanding Olympics,” he said after he had met with the Irish team.
London is now the only city to have hosted the modern-day Olympics three times. “It will prove to be an outstanding Olympics,” he added effusively.
“I wish the people of London and of Britain very well in this. I know that they will make the athletes from all over the world exceptionally welcome. I hope that the weather will be kind and suitable. I hope that there are some outstanding events and that off the last bend we’ll see the green singlet come through in whatever sport on a number of occasions.”
Greeted by Ireland chef de mission Sonia O’Sullivan, Mr Kenny and his wife Fionnuala spent more than an hour chatting individually with Ireland’s medal hopefuls. “This is what they were born for. There are millions, hundreds of millions out there, who would love to have the talent that they have.”
O’Sullivan’s presence will be critical, he believed: “For young Irish athletes to have someone of her experience and understanding of what big pressure sporting events are like is of enormous value to them.”
Chatting with Irish 1,500m runner, Ciarán Ó Lionáird, Mr Kenny discussed last-minute training schedules: “Well, you are well geared up for it. What will you be doing over the next week, speedwork?” he asked.
The Irish are sharing St Mary’s with Chinese track and field athletes and with the full squads from Japan and South Africa, including double-amputee sprint runner Oscar Pistorius.
“For me, as someone who is interested in sport anyway, for these athletes to put on an Irish singlet must be a pinnacle of their sporting careers. And to compete to win offers the possibility of making a dream come true. I wish them the very best of behalf of the people of our country. They’ll do us proud,” he went on.
“In many ways, this is not unlike politics. You have to believe in yourself and you have to have a sense of conviction and courage,” the Taoiseach added.