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Bush Welcomes Participation of Afghan, Iraqi Athletes in Summer Olympics - 2004-08-14

President Bush has applauded the participation of athletes from Afghanistan and Iraq in the Athens summer Olympics. Mike O'Sullivan reports from VOA's Los Angeles bureau, Mr. Bush said in his weekly radio address, Olympic athletes are sending the world a message.

Mr. Bush noted that the summer games have returned to Greece, their ancient birthplace, which is also the birthplace of democracy. He welcomed the fact that athletes from a free Afghanistan and a free Iraq are taking part in the games.

"The rise of freedom in Afghanistan and Iraq is transforming life in those nations, and its effect will spread far beyond their borders," he said. "For the first time in history, people everywhere will see women competitors wearing the uniform of Afghanistan."

Mr. Bush said, for the first time in decades, Iraqi Olympians are also free from what he called the brutal punishment of the son of Saddam Hussein. The dictator's late son Uday oversaw the Iraqi Olympic committee, and his athletes have alleged that he tortured those he thought were performing poorly.

Mr. Bush noted the surprise win by Iraq's soccer team over Portugal this week, and he called it a victory, which thrilled the world.

The president noted that at the opening of the games, athletes from the United States marched side-by-side with athletes from Afghanistan and Iraq, countries he said knew only tyranny and repression four years ago.

"Today, because the world acted with courage and moral clarity, those nations are free, and their athletes are competing in the Olympic Games," he added.

Mr. Bush said the games arrive at a challenging time, and that Olympic athletes are sending the world the message that, in the president's words, "freedom and hope are more powerful than terror and despair."