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Role for Romney in San Diego Olympic bid?

Published: Wednesday, May 1 2013 9:14 a.m. MDT

Former Massachusetts Gov. and 2012 Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney waves as he takes the stage to speak at the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md. on Friday, March 15, 2013.

Jacquelyn Martin, ASSOCIATED PRESS

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SALT LAKE CITY — Is there another Olympics in Mitt Romney's future?

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, a Democrat, sure hopes so. He's telling reporters he wants Romney to be the honorary chairman of the Southern California city's joint bid with Tijuana, Mexico, for the 2024 Summer Games.

Romney, who returned to his home in the nearby wealthy enclave of La Jolla, Calif., after his unsuccessful run for the White House, turned down the offer.

Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom told CNN Romney does "not intend to take a management position with the committee," but would be happy to offer advice and counsel.

No one expected the former leader of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City to take the offer seriously.

Fraser Bullock, who served as chief operating officer at Salt Lake's Olympics under Romney, said he would be "very skeptical that he would do it again. Everything went so well. He went out on top, very successful with the Olympic movement."

Romney left the Olympic world for a political career built in part on his success in turning around the scandal-torn 2002 Games. The Republican served four years as governor of Massachusetts and ran twice for president.

"He's moved on," Bullock said. "I just think he dedicated a significant amount of his time to the Olympic movement."

Still, Bullock said, it's clear why Romney's being courted.

"Any bid that could have Mitt Romney gets a huge leg up on the rest of the competition," he said. "Mitt is well-respected by the entire Olympic community around the world."

Ed Hula, editor of "Around the Rings," an international online newsletter about all things Olympics, suggested the San Diego mayor's invitation to Romney may be more of a publicity stunt than an actual offer.

"I think he's trying to get some attention there," Hula said from the newsletter's Atlanta offices. "I think it's more of a publicity move than anything that's been well thought out."

Not only is it unclear if the mayor has actually approached Romney, there's also no chance the International Olympic Committee, which makes the final selection of a host city, would even consider a multinational bid for a Summer Games, Hula said.

"The IOC told us it is dead out of the box in that format," Hula said. "Right now, it just seems like an uninformed move on the part of the city."

U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Patrick Sandusky said San Diego has already been told Tijuana has to be dropped from the bid.

"They have to," he said. "They don't really have a choice."

Filner released a statement Tuesday saying the city was "undaunted" by reports a multinational bid was prohibited by the IOC.

"We don't have all the answers right now," the mayor said. "The true spirit of the Olympics embodies my conviction that we should vigorously pursue the dream of having two countries host the Olympics in the greatest bi-national region of the world. Rules and bylaws can be changed.”

San Diego is one of 10 American cities reportedly interested in bidding for 2024. Sandusky said the USOC won't decide until next year at the earliest whether to submit a bid for those Summer Games.

Also yet to be decided is whether the USOC will seek bids for the 2026 Winter Games. Utah leaders have said Salt Lake City is ready to compete to host a second Olympics, but Sandusky said the USOC won't bid for both 2024 and 2026.

If Salt Lake were bidding again, Romney might be more likely to get involved, Bullock said.

"I think Salt Lake could be different for him," he said. "I think he would certainly lend his support to having the Games back in Utah. Whether he would play some ceremonial role, I don't know. But I hope he would."

Hula said Romney might not even be a good choice to lead a bid.

"He's got the experience of running a Games under his belt. What he doesn't have is experience winning a Games for a city. It's a different thing. It's like winning a presidential election," he said.

That's an experience Romney doesn't have either, Hula said, calling an Olympic bid "a political race. It is a contest for votes. He might be very good at doing that. But it's a different skill set, a different role" than being in charge of putting on an Olympics.

Then there's the question of what joining a bid would mean for Romney.

"Why would he need to? What would he gain by that headache?" Hula asked. "It's committing the next 10 years of his life to this. If I were him, I would find more interesting things to do, less stressful things to do."

Email: lisa@deseretnews.com

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