As Mike Eruzione approached the podium to deliver a speech to the delegates at the Republic National Convention in Tampa, the chants of “USA, USA, USA,” could be heard loudly and clearly from the convention floor.
When the Winthrop resident and Olympic captain and gold medalist introduced himself with a simple, “Good evening, I’m Mike Eruzione,” the crowd responded with wild cheers.
Eruzione had joined other Olympic medalists on stage to salute Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romey’s outstanding performance as the president and CEO of the Salt Lake City Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Eruzione was given a prime spot for his speech on the final night of the convention, preceding actor and director Clint Eastwood and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio at the podium. Fellow Olympic medalists Kim Rhode and Derek Parra also spoke during the well-orchestrated tribute to Romney’s leadership of the Olympics.
And just as he scored the winning goal in 1980 to produce the greatest upset in Olympic history, Eruzione rose to the occasion and gave a stirring and memorable speech.
Dressed in a dark pinstriped suit and blue shirt and tie, Eruzione had the crowd at his command from the outset.
“I am honored to have this opportunity tonight to talk with you about the global significance of the Olympic movement, its ideals, and its meaning – and how it was rescued by Mitt Romney,” Eruzione said.
Eruzione highlighted Romney’s role in taking a scandal-marred Olympics and turning them into a colossal success.
“In 2002 through bribery scandals and mismanagement, the Olympics, not just those Games, but the Olympics as an institution, were threatened,” said Eruzione. “Thankfully Mitt Romney was there to salvage a desperate situation. Mitt’s leadership not only turned around those Games by solving the operational and financial problems but he did something deeper – he drew a line in the sand and said the 2002 Games would have the highest standards of ethics and integrity.”
Eruzione said that Romney “focused on restoring the Olympics to the top pedestal of sports and he preserved the opportunity and idealism of the Olympics for future generations.”
Eruzione spoke about his role as captain of the 1980 U.S.A. hockey team that stunned the heavily favored Soviet Union team and beat Finland in the gold medal game.
“I was fortunate to compete in the Olympics as captain of the 1980 U.S.A. Miracle on Ice hockey team,” said Eruzione as the crowd erupted in cheers. “And that team was proud and honored to light the cauldron for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
“That action of passing along the flame of the Olympic spirit symbolizes something grander than all of us,” he said. “It is the single greatest movement that brings all humans across the world together. We are all fortunate that Mitt Romney kept that fire burning.”
Eruzione said he had the opportunity to get to know Romney and his wife, Ann, following the 2002 Olympics and to see what they have accomplished.
“Mitt is a brilliant leader who is committed to the highest ideals and he’s a wonderful and caring family man,” said Eruzione. “Just like the Olympics needed Mitt’s leadership ten years ago, American desperately needs Mitt Romney’s leadership today.”
Eruzione then delivered an endorsement of the former Massachusetts governor’s candidacy for President of the United States.
“Please join me in making him the next President of the United States,” Eruzione said.
More than 25 million people later watched Romney’s nomination acceptance speech at the convention.
Eruzione said he was invited to speak at the convention by the Romney campaign team. Romney called Eruzione Saturday to thank him for his remarks and for being a part of the convention.
“I’ve been a support of Mitt Romney’s since 2002,” said Eruzione, who describes his political affiliation as Independent. “I like the guy. I think he’s a very bright man - a good family with great values. I’m hoping he wins the presidency. He’s somebody that I like and would like to see run the country.”