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Remarks Honoring the 1996 United States Olympic Team

August 07, 1996

Thank you very much. I want to welcome Dr. Walker here and Dick Schultz and Maynard Jackson and others who come from the Olympic committee and from Atlanta. I want to say also a special word of thanks to the Vice President, who worked so hard on America's contribution to the Olympic games, who can't be here today, and to my good friend Mack McLarty for all the work they did to help the Olympics succeed.

And I want to welcome the coaches and the family members who are here. But most of all, I want to welcome you here. I want you to know you've caused us two problems. One is, none of us got any sleep for the last 2 weeks, and I don't think we hurt the public interest— [laughter]—but we enjoyed watching you, sometimes until 1 o'clock in the morning. The second thing you have done is good in a way; we've all intensified our training schedule around here—[laughter]—since we watched the Olympics. But I asked my staff if there were any special requests that I should make of you, and an enormous number of people asked if we could get the women's soccer team to teach us that belly slide. [Laughter]

As all of you know, this was a very great thing for the United States. When Hillary and I had a chance to come and meet with you at the beginning before the Olympics began, I said that we would cheer when you won and cry when you lost, but that your efforts and what you symbolized for America would be the most important thing. And I really very much believe that today.

This was a remarkable Olympic experience. And I think in many ways it was fitting that the centennial Olympics were held in the United States because we do represent so many nations. When I leave you, I'm going out to California. There were 197 teams in the Olympics. In one county in California, there are people from the same places as over 150 of those teams. That's what's special about our country. And you gave that to the world when we saw you, when we saw you compete, when we saw you win. And we're very grateful to you. I'm also very grateful to the people in Atlanta who did a magnificent job in organizing the games and for the community spirit there after the bombing. I thought it was magnificent.

There may have been some discussion about this, but I believe that since more people saw these games than any games in history, both in person and on television, because they were so well organized, because there were so many countries represented, because you were so magnificent, and because of the way people reacted to the tragedy, as far as I'm concerned, these Atlanta games were the best. They were the greatest games in the history of the Olympics.

I also would like to say a special word of appreciation to all the athletes who competed and all those who won. But let me say, when I looked at our team, I couldn't help—as the father of a daughter of whom I'm very proud, I couldn't help but note that over 20 years ago, in a complete bipartisan commitment here in Washington, the United States Congress passed something called title IX which made it possible for a lot of the women athletes to be here today. There were 77,000 spectators at the women's soccer finals. There were a lot of men basketball players watching the women's basketball finals thanking God they weren't on the court that day. [Laughter]

We should be on the forefront always of bringing more people into the world of sport, more people into competition, more people having a chance to live out their dreams whatever they are. And yesterday we saw off the torch for the Paralympics which will be starting in Atlanta soon. And I know every one of you support that. One of our runners in the Paralympics actually is on an NCAA Division I track team at my alma mater Georgetown University. So we ought to be for more and more and more people having a chance to participate.

And let me finally say that I had very high hopes for all of you and for our country. They were exceeded not only by the medals you won but by the way you won them. And you gave something very special to the American people. I'm glad you can be here today. And we'd like to just have a chance to give a small portion back to you through your tour of your house that you gave to all of us for those wonderful 17 days.

Thank you all. God bless you, and good luck.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:28 a.m. on the South Lawn at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to LeRoy T. Walker, president, and Richard D. Schultz, executive director, United States Olympic Committee; and Maynard Jackson, former mayor of Atlanta, GA.

William J. Clinton, Remarks Honoring the 1996 United States Olympic Team Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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