WASHINGTON -- Former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney criticized Russia Sunday for spending an excessive amount of money on hosting the Olympics, suggesting some of it is being used for corrupt purposes.
Romney, who ran the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, penned an op-ed for USA Today last week titled "Limit Olympic excess," in which he said foreign countries hosting the Olympics in recent years wasted money by engaging in too much self-promotion. During an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday, host David Gregory asked Romney if it was time for the International Olympic Committee to "limit that excess."
"Well, I really think so. You don't need to spend $50 billion, as Russia has, or as China did, to put on Olympic sport. Olympic sport can be demonstrated at $2 [billion] or $3 billion," Romney said. "And all that extra money could be used to do some very important things, in terms of fighting poverty and fighting disease around the world. That's what we really ought to be using those resources for, as opposed to wasting them, in many cases, to show off a country or, I think more cynically, to show off the politicians in a country."
"And to take money from some people so that politicians can be puffed up and be shown around the world, I think, is something which is very distasteful at a time when there's so much poverty and so much need," he added.
Romney's comments appeared to be a thinly veiled shot at Russian President Vladimir Putin, of whom he has never been a fan. Last month, Romney called Putin a "terrible president" and a "thug," and on Sunday he said the money Russia spent on the Olympics was being used not just to show off Putin, but for corruption.
"A lot of that money certainly could be going into corruption as well, and paying off various folks," Romney said. "It's a very unsavory thing. And I think the International Olympic Committee is going to have to take action to limit how much is spent on Olympic games."
The former Massachusetts governor did have some rare praise for Russia's security around the games in the face of "very real" threats.
"When you have the kind of specific threats that were leveled at the games, you have to take them very seriously," he said. "At the same time, I think Russia has shown not only through the application of their security forces, but also through their intelligence work, that they have the capacity to keep the games reasonably safe. There's no such thing as the 100 percent guarantee, but I think at this stage people feel pretty comfortable that the games will be safe."