When I tried to power on the virtual machine I got the following error screen. I went to the link suggested by the error page and I downloaded the utility to see if my CPU was capable of running in 64 bit mode. The tool from VMWARE told me that my CPU was not capable of running a 64 bit operating system. This puzzled me because until recently I was running a 64 bit operating system (RHEL6) on the same laptop.
I still thought that the problem might be that it is not possible to run a 64 bit guest operating system on a 32 bit host operating system. Then I remembered that I still had kept the boot partition for the 64 bit OS, so I booted this partition and tried again to run the virtual machines. Puzzlingly I still got the same result. The VMWARE test utility was also still telling me that my CPU was not capable of operating in 64 bit mode which was deifnietly not true since it was running in 64 bit mode when I ran the test.