Monday, August 6, 2012

Governor Romney's Olympic Achievement

Dear Fellow Virginians,

Now that we're about half way through the Olympics, I thought it appropriate to reflect on the accomplishment that put Mitt Romney on the national (and international) stage: the turnaround of the 2002 Winter Olympics.

This is important for several reasons, first among them the continuing contrast of real-world accomplishments that Mitt Romney has achieved compared to the complete dearth of accomplishment of the current President when he ran for President (to say nothing of what he has done to America since he took office).

I think that it is objectively accurate to say that Barack Obama was the least accomplished person to ever ascend to the Presidency in my lifetime and probably all the way back through the 20th century, if not ever.  What did he accomplish in the U.S. Senate? Nothing.  What did he accomplish in the Illinois State Senate?  Nothing - including frequently (147 times I think) not even voting even though he was present... pretty basic.  What did he accomplish outside of government?  Nothing that he seems to want to talk about...

Prior to being elected to anything, Mitt Romney founded and led Bain Capital, a pioneering and successful venture capital firm for more than a decade and a half.  And in February 1999, he was asked to take over the effort to plan for and execute the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

I'm writing about Romney's 2002 Olympic accomplishment because it was completely non-partisan, difficult to achieve, and represents a reasonable analogy for the choice before us in the 2012 Presidential election.

Upon Arrival

First, let's look at what he was walking into.  The 2002 Winter Olympics weren't merely struggling, they were mired in scandal.  Do you remember the discovery of the $1 million worth of gifts and bribes to International Olympic Committee (IOC) members to win the Olympics in the first place?  That's what Romney was walking into.

But that's not all.  When Mitt Romney came on board, the budget for the 2002 Olympics was $1.45 billion, but it was $380 million in deficit.  Executives were spending lavishly on meals and travel, going to meetings with large entourages, and the culture within the organization was such that they would never have gotten into the black without a radical turnaround.  Sound like a useful example for the federal government?

On his way in, Romney thought the problem he was confronting was 80% a public relations problem and 20% a management problem.  After only three weeks on the job, he concluded the problem was 80% management and only 20% public relations.  And he rolled up his sleeves and got to work.

To cut to the chase on the numbers, Romney cut $200 million out of the budget (a 15% cut) and finished $100 million in the black... with praise for the accomplishment coming from every corner of America and beyond.  A 15% cut in the federal budget would cut the deficit in half.

Making it Happen

To achieve this unprecedented Olympic turnaround required many things: strategic planning, hard-nosed decision making, even harder-nosed execution of those decisions, and a change in the corporate culture (and day-to-day operation) of the whole Salt Lake City committee - starting at the top.

Romney immediately stopped the lavish dinners.  At meetings, executives had to pay for their own coffee and doughnuts, had to buy slices of pizza for $1 each, sodas for 25 cents.  The entourages stopped going on trips.  Trips were cut short or eliminated, e.g., Romney's December 1999 report to the IOC in Switzerland was done by teleconference, saving 3 days travel and $10,000.

Romney and his team questioned basic assumptions about how an Olympics should (must?) be run. When something didn't seem to make sense, he would drill down on it and frequently find that, in fact, it didn't make sense!  And over the side such things would go.

For example, having a daily "Olympic Newspaper..." Why not let the papers in Salt Lake City handle that job? And so they did.

No limos for VIPS.  No lavish hotel suites or parties for the IOC or anyone else.  All business.

Romney also donated each of his three years' of salary - $275,000 per year - to charity?  Additionally, he personally donated about $1,000,000 of his personal money to the Olympics.  No shortage of personal commitment at the top of this organization.


The last time the U.S. hosted the Winter Olympics prior to 2002 was in Lake Placid, New York in 1980. One of the gripes the Obama folks lob in about this incredible accomplishment is that the 2002 Winter Olympics got federal funds.  Which is certainly true.  However, while just under 20% of the 2002 budget came from federal funds, in Lake Placid in 1980 that number was about 50%.

Would I prefer no federal money?  Sure I would, but Romney got a lot less federal help to pull off a winter Olympics than Lake Placid, and he started in a deep, deep hole.


Well, this is obvious.  America is in a deep financial hole.  And Barack Obama has violated the first rule of holes since the day he was sworn in, namely, when you're in a hole - stop digging.

Our federal government needs a turnaround.  It involves more than just our President, but the President plays a critical leadership role.

We need to replace our current President - one who insists on continuing to dig us into deeper and deeper holes (e.g., last month's jobs report and rise in unemployment) - with a President who has a track record of executive accomplishment.

I would respectfully suggest that President Obama has had three and a half years of failure as President, and nothing prior to 2008 to point to and say "this shows what I can do."  Mitt Romney has achievements that he can point to and say "this shows what I can do," but none of them stand out like his arduous, three-year turnaround of the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Half way through the 2012 Summer Olympics, as Americans and others around the world celebrate great accomplishments, it seemed to me to be a good time to reflect back on one of Mitt Romney's greatest accomplishments.

Please share the comparison of accomplishment versus none with your friends and family, in letters to the editor, and via door knocking and phone calling at our Victory Centers!  Click here to find your nearest Victory Center.  I'll see you out on the campaign trail.


Ken Cuccinelli, II
Attorney General of Virginia

P.S. Here is a recent T.V. ad on the subject of the 2002 Olympics that the Romney Super-PAC has put out.

Paid for and authorized by Ken Cuccinelli for Governor

Ken Cuccinelli for Governor, 10560 Main Street, Suite 218, Fairfax, VA 22030

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