LONDON — Mitt Rommey sought Friday to tamp down the controversy stemming from the concerns he'd raised about London's readiness to host the Olympic games, saying he was "absolutely convinced" the city was ready for the games, which open tonight.
"I'm absolutely convinced the people here are ready for the games," Romney told NBC's Matt Lauer in an exclusive interview.
Romney has been lambasted in the British press for two days after telling NBC's Brian Williams on Wednesday that there were"disconcerting" factors in the lead up to the games, which prompted a minor uproar that culminated last night at a rally in Hyde Park, where Romney was called out by London's mayor Boris Johnson.
“I hear there’s a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we’re ready," Johnson shouted to the crowd. "He wants to know whether we’re ready. Are we ready? Are we ready? Yes we are!”
Romney looked to turn the page on the controversy this morning in his interview with Lauer, where he said his campaign would continue next week to be on its economic focus.
"I'm very proud of the fact that my campaign is focused on the economy," Romney said, telling Lauer he could not say whether his campaign was more or less negatively focused than President Obama's, but that his was "not focused on personal attacks," a reference to the Obama campaign's recent ads highlighting Romney's business record and his refusal to release more than two years of tax returns.
On the matter of his taxes, Romney reiterated his staunch position on only releasing two years of tax returns so as not to give Democrats more to "distort and twist and be dishonest" about.
"We just laid out exactly what is required by law, which is all of our financial statements," Romney said, adding that he based his tax return releases on what 2008 GOP nominee John McCain had done, and "did the same thing."
Finally, Romney was asked to weigh in to the Decision 2012 of the Olympic games: who would win the first duel between American swimmers Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte?
"I think its more likely to be Phelps, but I don't know," said Romney, who yesterday told Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg he planned to attend some swimming events on Saturday because "Americans typically do well in swimming.”
For her part, Ann Romney said it would be "nervewracking," to watch her horse Rafalca compete in the equestrian sport of dressage later in the week -- an event her husband would not be attending.
"When I'm watching my horse it's like watching my children play sports," Mrs. Romney said, adding of her husband's plan not to attend the dressage competition, "I give him a pass when it comes to my horses because he's so so supportive of me."