Olympic Notebook #1- Presidential Visits
August 10, 2008
(Photo: (Getty Images) President of the United States, George W. Bush holds up the American Flag the right way after wife Laura Bush instructed him to turn it around at the swimming arena at the National Aquatics Center during day 2 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 10, 2008 in Beijing, China)
BEIJING - Both US Presidents named George Bush have been making the rounds at the venues over the past few days and have quickly become an indelible part of the athletes' Olympic experience.
On Friday night, before the Opening Ceremony, the President met with the US team before it marched toward the stadium, and freestyle wrestler Ben Askren (74kg) inadvertently asked the president's daughter Barbara to take his picture. "I turned around and people were sort of laughing. They said, ‘Don't you know who that is?' I said, ‘Nope.'" He quickly apologized for his gaffe. "I said, ‘I didn't realize who you were,' and she said, ‘Don't worry, I take a good picture.' And she did!" Askren said. "I got a picture with her after."
On Saturday night, after the US women's sabre fencing team swept the medals, silver medalist Sada Jacobson said, "I was in doping control and they asked if I could hurry up because President Bush [Senior] was here. It was just one of those surreal Olympic experiences. When I met him, I was tearing up from the medal ceremony and he gave me his handkerchief."
On Sunday morning, the former and current presidents Bush appeared at the iconic swimming venue, the Water Cube.
In the dressing room before Larsen Jensen's 400-meter freestyle final, he saw the commander in chief on closed-circuit TV and said, "The President is watching, it's time to step it up." Jensen went on to capture the bronze medal, and said afterwards, "There is no greater honor as an athlete to compete in front of the President."
After Michael Phelps touched the wall in world-record time to win his first gold medal (of a possible eight) here in the 400-meter individual medley, he tried in vain to find his mother in the stands. Instead, he said, "I looked up and saw President Bush giving me a thumbs up and holding up the American flag. That was pretty cool."