Members of America's Summer Olympic team are preparing to head to China
after a formal send-off at the White House. VOA's Paula Wolfson
reports, President Bush says he is looking forward to joining them in
About two dozen members of Team USA went to the White House.
represented all the athletes at a ceremony in the Rose Garden, where
President Bush praised their accomplishments and their character.
Beijing, you will also represent our nation's character," the president
noted. "As ambassadors of goodwill, you will be humble in victory and
gracious in defeat. And by showing respect for your competitors, you
will demonstrate America's respect for the world."
U.S. athletes will compete in 30 different sports at the Games -from
swimming to fencing, and from judo to gymnastics. The president noted
they represent the diversity of America - a mix of races, ethnic
backgrounds and ages.
"Some of you are young, the youngest
teammate is a 15-year-old diver, and some of you are older. There is a
58-year-old sailor, which gives this 62-year-old mountain biker hope
that you may need me in Beijing," the president joked.
president's role in Beijing is more likely to be that of a sports fan
and cheerleader-in-chief. He has said on numerous occasions that he is
going to Beijing to support America's athletes and see some great
And while his decision to attend the opening
ceremonies has proven controversial, the president made clear in the
Rose Garden that he is excited about the prospect of seeing the Games
"Laura and I look forward to joining you for the
Olympics," he said. "I am fired up to go. I cannot wait to
salute our athletes, and I cannot wait to share in the joy of your
triumphs. And so today we send you off with congratulations on the
success you have already achieved, and on the accomplishments we know
will be yours in Beijing."
Critics have said the president
should not attend the opening ceremonies because of the Chinese
government's human rights record and its policies regarding Tibet and
But members of the Olympic team who came to the White
House say they cannot wait to share the experience of being at the
Olympics with the president.
Kerri Walsh - a defending gold
medalist in beach volleyball - says it is important to keep the true
meaning of the Olympics in mind.
"What is amazing about the
Olympic is it is a sporting event and not a political event," Walsh
said. "It is when the world can come together at a peaceful event.
And it is an honor that President Bush will be attending the games and
will be at the opening ceremonies to represent our country."
The Summer Olympics open August 8 in Beijing.