SALT LAKE CITY -- Mitt Romney returned to Salt Lake City on Saturday to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the 2002 Winter Games he helped lead, but the GOP presidential candidate came under attack for urging the federal government to provide big bucks for Olympic expenses.
Romney was hired to lead the Salt Lake Olympic Committee after a bribery scandal threatened the Games. The success of those Olympics, he has said during the campaign, helps make the case for his bid for the White House. "I led an Olympics out of the shadows of scandal," Romney told conservative activists this month.
In brief remarks to Olympic staff and volunteers on Saturday, Romney highlighted his own efforts to cut costs at the Games and was careful to note the accomplishments of those who worked for him. He didn't mention his presidential run.
Romney said he cut millions from the budget to decorate the city and argued that some of the venues built in Salt Lake cost much less than they had in other cities that had hosted Winter Games.
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Romney, who has sometimes been accused of taking too much credit for saving the Games when many others contributed, was careful to acknowledge the support he received.
"I just want to say thanks to all those that lit the fire within. The accounting team, the legal team," Romney said, referring to the Games' theme song, Light the Fire Within, and rattling off the groups he had left off his list of people to thank.
His opponents are attacking his record at the Games. Both Democrats and GOP presidential rival Rick Santorum criticize Romney for working to secure millions in federal earmarks that helped cover Olympic costs.
"One of the things he talks about most is how he heroically showed up on the scene and bailed out and resolved the problems of the Salt Lake City Olympic Games," Santorum said during a campaign stop in Columbus, Ohio. "He heroically bailed out the Salt Lake City Olympic Games by heroically going to Congress and asking them for tens of millions of dollars to bail out the Salt Lake Games."
Democrats made those claims, too, in a Web video released Friday.
They highlighted comments from Arizona Sen. John McCain, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee. McCain called the Olympics "an incredible pork-barrel project for Salt Lake City and its environs."
Romney's campaign says most of the money went to provide security in the wake of 9-11. "There is a pretty wide gulf between seeking money for post-9-11 security at the Olympics and seeking earmarks for polar bear exhibits at the Pittsburgh Zoo," spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement.