The Olympic torch arrived at the White House Saturday morning, as part of the nationwide relay which will take the flame to February's Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. President Bush lit the Olympic Cauldron on the South Lawn of the White House, passing the flame between two of the more than 11,000 torchbearers who are carrying it as a display of the Olympic spirit, in advance of the 2002 Winter Games.

"This flame stands for the skill and dedication of friendly competition. I'm honored to take part in the 2002 Olympic Torch Relay, and I'm really proud to welcome the Olympic spirit to America this winter," he said.

Dressed in a long black coat and white cowboy hat, President Bush said each torchbearer's story is a lesson in citizenship and courage and compassion. He received the torch from Elizabeth Howell, whose husband, Brady, was killed in the September 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon.

"Her participation in the torch relay represents the strength shown by so many families after September the 11. And Liz, our nation prays with you during this holiday season. We pray for peace and comfort for you and your family," he said.

President Bush passed the torch to local university student Eric Jones, who worked four days at the Pentagon site then drove to New York to help out at the World Trade Center for ten days. The torch left the White House for the city of Baltimore, part of its more than 21,000 kilometer trip to the opening ceremonies in Salt Lake City on February 6.