President Bush says, in the midst of a difficult struggle, the Winter Olympics offer a forum for peace and cooperation. Mr. Bush also had words of encouragement for U.S. athletes before the games began in Salt Lake City.
In an afternoon meeting with the American competitors, Mr. Bush compared the Olympic athletes to the firefighters and police officers who lost their lives in the terror attacks in New York. He said that like those heroes, the athletes share the courage that overcomes difficult odds.
Before the opening ceremony for the Olympics Friday evening, Mr. Bush spoke on NBC television, which is broadcasting the games. He was asked if, after the attacks, he had ever thought of cancelling the Winter Olympics. "No, never did. First of all, I knew that we could secure the arena, secure the venue," he said. "I also knew that if the games weren't held, it would a victory for the terrorists, and we're not going to let them have any victories."
Spectators waved American flags during the opening celebration of the Olympic games, and eight U.S. athletes carried the tattered flag found in the rubble of New York's World Trade Center. They were surrounded by police and firefighters from New York City. The inclusion of the flag was the result of a compromise with international Olympic officials, who initially said national displays are not appropriate. U.S. Olympic officials said the flag would honor the victims of the September 11 attacks, and the flag was carried into the stadium in a special procession.
Before the ceremony, Mr. Bush told an interviewer the Olympic games remain international. "This is a chance for people from all around the world to come in the midst of war and have a peaceful competition fierce competition, but peaceful," he said. "This is a statement for peace and unity."
During his afternoon meeting, Mr. Bush encouraged the U.S. athletes, saying "Let's roll." Those were the last words of one of the passengers on a hijacked jet that crashed in Pennsylvania. Some people on the craft apparently struggled with the hijackers, who were trying to guide the plane toward a target.