Athletes from more than two-hundred nations are competing in the twenty-eighth Olympiad in Athens. They include more than five-hundred Americans, who are competing in more than two-dozen sports.
For America’s athletes, says President George W. Bush, a place on the Olympic team “is the culmination of years spent training and competing”:
“They are proving that persistence and teamwork can help meet high goals. They are performing with honor, conducting themselves with humility, and serving as ambassadors of peace and good will to the entire world. By showing respect for every competitor, they are showing America’s respect for the world, and they are inspiring us all.”
In Greece, says Mr. Bush, “the Olympics are returning to their ancient birthplace, and also to the birthplace of democracy”:
“These games arrive at a challenging hour for the world, yet we have cause for great hope. At the opening ceremony, Team U-S-A marched alongside men and women from Afghanistan and Iraq, nations that four years ago knew only tyranny and repression. . . . The rise of freedom in Afghanistan and Iraq is transforming life in those nations, and its effect will spread far beyond their borders.”
“For the first time in history,” says President Bush, “people everywhere will see women competitors wearing the uniform of Afghanistan.” As for Iraq, its twenty-nine-member Olympic team is no longer subject to the whims of Saddam Hussein’s brutal son Uday, who was known for torturing Iraqi athletes if their performance displeased him.
Mr. Bush says, “One woman on the Iraqi track team described her outlook this way”:
“’Someone who represents only herself has accomplished nothing; I want to represent my country.’ That same spirit motivates athletes from nations around the world.”
“By coming together in friendly competition,” says President Bush, “all Olympians are sending the message that freedom and hope are more powerful than terror and despair.”