Mitt Romney had a plaque honoring his contributions to the 2002 Winter Games removed from the "Wall of Honor" because of the controversy surrounding the exclusion of former Olympic officials Tom Welch and Dave Johnson.
"With the controversy surrounding who would be on the 'Wall of Honor' I wanted to remove myself from any personal consideration," the Salt Lake Organizing Committee president said Thursday. "My hope was it would just not be visible."
Welch and Johnson, who faced criminal charges in federal court in connection with the more than $1 million spent to court the votes of members of the International Olympic Committee in the campaign to become an Olympic host city, did not qualify for a place on the wall, according to Romney.
But that hasn't stopped their supporters from calling for room to be made for Welch and Johnson. Romney said Thursday he did not know whether some way would be found to recognize their contributions.
"The decision as to who should be honored and how they should be honored will be decided by this community, by the (SLOC) board following the Games," he said. Currently, only contributors of $100,000 or more are on the wall at the Gateway Olympic legacy plaza.
Johnson told the Deseret News on Thursday that everyone involved from the early days of the bid effort should be recognized.
"If it's a wall of honor, you have to honor everybody who was involved," Johnson said. "It's very easy for those in positions now to forget those who made their jobs possible." Asked if he felt slighted, Johnson said he and his family plan to enjoy the Games.
"I'm thrilled that the Games are here. I think the Games are going to be an incredible experience for people of Utah. I've always believed that," he said. "For me, the Games are going to be like a family reunion. We have hundreds of friends from all over the world."
Welch was traveling Thursday and could not be reached for comment. But his longtime friend, Kem Gardner, head of the company that built The Gateway and donated space for the Olympic Legacy Plaza, said Welch wasn't interested in seeing his name up on the wall.
"Tom has never wanted to be recognized on the Wall of Honor," Gardner said. "He never thought in terms of being recognized. He thought in terms of getting this thing (the trial) behind him."
Gardner, who is also a close friend of Romney's, said he disagreed with Romney's decision to have his plaque removed. "I said to him, 'We were all as uncomfortable as you about being on the wall.' "
Romney told the Deseret News editorial board in December that he had asked for his plaque to be removed. "At least one of the reasons is that I look like a duck in the picture," he said then.
Thursday, Romney said he was "just vain enough not to want that up on the wall."
He also said that working with the Games and with the athletes was enough of an honor.
As for Welch and Johnson, he said neither is receiving Olympic credentials, tickets or any other special access to the Games. The charges against the pair have been dismissed in U.S. District Court, but federal prosecutors have served notice they intend to appeal.
Contributing: Dennis Romboy.