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For Immediate Release
August 14, 2004

President's Radio Address
Portland, Oregon

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THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This past week, the Games of the 28th Olympiad began in Athens. Athletes from more than 200 nations gathered at the opening ceremony to watch the lighting of the Olympic torch, and to begin two weeks of world-class competition.

America is proud of our Olympians. The talented men and women of Team USA represent almost every state and every background, and range from 15 to 52 years of age. They are carrying on our nation's proud Olympic tradition, which extends back to the first modern games, held in Athens in 1896.

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In the coming days, more than 500 American athletes will compete in some 28 sports. In stadiums around Athens, and in living rooms here at home, millions of fans will cheer for Team USA. We will watch as our athletes set new records and create lasting memories, from the track to the pool to the gymnastics floor. And we will all be proud to see the stars and stripes rise when our fellow Americans win medals.

Success in the Olympics is not defined on the medal stand, alone. For our athletes, a place on America's 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 goodwill 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, the Olympics are returning to their ancient birthplace, and also 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 USA marched alongside men and women from Afghanistan and Iraq, nations that four years ago knew only tyranny and repression. Today, because the world acted with courage and moral clarity, those nations are free, and their athletes are competing in the Olympic Games.

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, people everywhere will see women competitors wearing the uniform of Afghanistan. For the first time in decades, the world will see Iraqi Olympians free from the brutal punishment of the dictator's son. Twenty-nine athletes from Iraq are competing in Athens, including the Iraqi soccer team, which thrilled the world by winning its first game. 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, all Olympians are sending the message that freedom and hope are more powerful than terror and despair. As we watch our athletes compete in Athens, we also think about the many Americans deployed overseas to defend our nation. In Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond, our men and women in uniform are serving with great skill and compassion. They are making America more secure, and America is grateful to all of them, and to their families.

I look forward to following the Olympics over the next two weeks. I congratulate the coaches and athletes and families of Team USA, and also the brave Paralympic athletes preparing to compete in Athens next month. I wish them all good luck in the games.

Thank you for listening.


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