Romney was recruited in 1999 to take over leadership of the troubled 2002 winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, which is perhaps the ultimate turnaround on his résumé. The heads of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) had resigned amid accusations that members of the International Olympic Committee had been bribed. What’s more, the Games were in financial trouble – running short by $379 million – and faced being scaled back or leaving Salt Lake City altogether.
Romney revamped the SLOC leadership and boosted fundraising, and in the end, the Games were a sports and marketing success. The organizing committee wound up with a multimillion-dollar surplus, and the events were viewed by 2 billion people across the globe.
“I led an Olympics out of the shadows of scandal,” Romney said in February.
Romney detractors point out that he had lobbied for and received some $600 million in federal earmarks for the Games, much of it for security in the wake of 9/11. An additional $1.1 billion in government funds was spent on infrastructure improvements, like roads and bridges, according to the Associated Press.
But in the end, the Olympics are viewed positively by most Americans, and Romney’s lead role in saving the 2002 Winter Games is a plus.