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Public Papers - 1992

Remarks Congratulating the United States Olympic Team

1992-08-11

These guys are fired up, listen. I am so sorry about the weather. We had a spectacular event planned out there. But it can't diminish this. May I salute Bill Hybl, the president of the committee, and of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who's Chairman of our Fitness Committee and led our official delegation over there to see you all magnificent athletes. And welcome to the White House. It's an honor to have this marvelous U.S. Olympic team right here. I didn't recognize you almost without Bob Costas as a voice-over.

But I want to welcome you to the White House and to extend this message: Whether you won a gold, silver, bronze, or simply gave your best, I believe that you all are winners in the eyes of your countrymen. You really set a great example.

The last couple of weeks we were completely caught up here at home by this Olympic spirit. Barbara asked me to help rearrange a couple of chairs upstairs. And I said, ``What's the degree of difficulty?'' [Laughter] But on and on it went, everybody reflecting the glory that you all helped bring to this country for 16 days, over 100 hours. You showed how competition lifts the human spirit and that now that spirit really lifts the American character. When I was a kid I read about the game being well worth the candle burned long into the night. Now I'm told your nights in Barcelona were long, but I'm betting that that candle is going to still last longer.

Each Olympics is one for the record books. This one was one for the history books. Our world has been remade since those Seoul Olympics, and we Americans, I think, can take pride in the fact we helped remake it. But in 1989 the wall came down in Berlin, and this summer more barriers tumbled there in Barcelona. This was an Olympics, this is why I say it's historic, without boycotts, without terrorism, without politics. And it's just exactly as it ought to be.

You all must have sensed it there in the village in meeting East and West Germans, black and white South Africans, North and South Koreans. One by one these old divisions gave way. The world watched as countries that didn't even exist in the last Olympics took their place on the field and the medal stand, too. Think of that. You know what it means to make America a winner, but think what it must mean to be the first athlete to bring a medal home to Latvia or Croatia. They, like you, made this an Olympics worthy of its name.

Today we honor here in the White House all of you, the fastest, the strongest of America's athletes. And here's what I like even more: You're among its most inspirational. With us today is Shannon Miller, back here in the front row, who overcame a bone chip in her elbow; Gail Devers overcoming Graves' disease; Charles Barkley overcoming his shyness. [Laughter] That brings me to Ron Karnaugh, who wore his deceased father's hat and made every father proud. And Oscar de la Hoya, he not only brought home the gold, he brought honor to his mom's memory. Each of them competed, competed to win for the wonderful family called America.

Ask diver Mark Lenzi what it takes to get the gold. He'll tell you about Dad's carpools or Mom's care packages, his favorite brownies, her special lasagna. Talk to Summer, Summer Sanders, one of swimming's new kids on the block, and she'll say that success -- is she making signs -- [laughter] -- success comes down to the support of people around you. And let me add, I'm especially amazed by the synchronized swimmers. Maybe it's because I live in a city where it's tough to get any two people to agree on anything, say nothing to do it in tandem.

Family: Look at the Oden sisters, Kim and Elaina, volleyball's ``sisters of smash.'' Then there's the men's wonderful bronze medalist volleyball team. It was sensational. I saw that last game. We've had a lot of athletes proudly represent the symbol of the bald eagle. They're the first ones that looked like bald eagles. [Laughter] From Trent Dimas and Chris Campbell and Janet Evans, Carl Lewis, from Gigi and Mary Joe Fernandez to the woman Leora ``Sam'' Jones representing those who won not only medals but also our hearts, and look, this list goes on and on, on and on. Suffice to say that in Barcelona this Nation became your family. And why not? Sports are not abstract. Fitness is not abstract. These things mean something. Sports are flesh and blood. Americans see you, and then they relate to you.

Wrestler Bruce Baumgartner shows what I'm talking about. Watching him on TV, he's even stronger than I thought he was. Anytime he wants to come here, and weightlifting equipment isn't good enough, he's welcome to drop by and bench-press the Federal budget. [Laughter]

Eighteen days ago Bruce called his 2-year-old son, Bryan, in western Pennsylvania. That day was doubly special. It was the opening day of the Olympics, and it was the kid's birthday, too. But he doesn't know what a gold medal is yet. The kid doesn't know that, but his mother coached him to say, ``Bring home the gold medal.'' Two years old. Last Thursday Bruce did exactly that. Now, he had a lot of company, for instance, the Dream Team which sent basketball soaring.

My good friend Arnold Schwarzenegger, who led this delegation to Barcelona, our official one, once starred in a movie where he uttered those famous words, we all remember them, ``Hasta la vista, baby.'' [Laughter] In Barcelona that's what all of you said to opponents and to couch potatoes. You inspired the mother who plays softball with her kids, the dad shooting hoops with his boys or girls, the family who knows that sports are ageless. Take Pablo Morales -- front row, where is he, can't find him, but he's in there somewhere; whoops, there he is -- the swimmer. He missed out in '84, didn't make the team in '88, then came back this year to earn a gold medal at the ripe old age of 27. That just goes to show, youth and inexperience are no match for maturity and determination.

This summer the entire world was barely a match for you all. In Barcelona you KO'd the opposition: 108, and I want to repeat this one for the cameras, 108 medals, the most ever since 1904 in a nonboycotted Olympics.

And you really paved the way magnificently for a knockout punch in Atlanta. I just can't wait until 1996. A proverb says, ``On the day of victory, no one is tired.'' Today we celebrate Olympians, like America, who are victorious, refreshed, and free.

Thank you so very much for coming to the White House. May God bless this great country that you've made so very proud, the United States of America. Thank you all very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 5:05 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to William Hybl, president of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

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