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  • Beijing Olympics Spectator George H.W. Bush, 94 - Updated


    12/05/18

    (ATR) President George H.W. Bush welcomed two American Olympic teams while he was in the White House, but it wasn't until 16 years later that he finally got to see the Games themselves. His chance finally came during Beijing 2008 when he accompanied his son, Pres. George W. Bush III. 

    H. W. died at age 94 in Houston on Saturday.

    During his single term from 1989-1993, Bush hosted the 1992 U.S. Olympic teams that competed in Albertville and Barcelona.

    George H.W. Bush with gold medal swimmers including Michael Phelps. President George Bush on the left, in Beijing in 2008. (Presidential Libraries of the U.S. National Archives)
    In a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in April 1992, Bush told Team USA, “Each of you showed how the Olympics race can ennoble the human race, that cooperation and competition can produce a better world. And you led the way to America's best showing in the Winter Games since 1980, 11 medals, the most we've won on foreign soil.”

    More than 400 members of the U.S. summer Olympic team packed into the East Room of the White House after the Barcelona Games.

    Mike Moran, now retired, was USOC media chief and remembers the August 1992 ceremony.

    “Because of rainy weather, the team was jammed into the White House East Room, athletes were all over the stairways and hallways, eating ice cream and snacks,” Moran tells Around the Rings.

    “The President told all the athletes: "Whether you won a gold medal, a silver medal, a a bronze medal, or simply did your best, I think you are all winners in the eyes of your countrymen,” recalls Moran.

    “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.” 

    He also praised medalists including Pablo Morales, who won a swimming gold medal at age 27 after a brief retirement.

    Bush pulled out a joke he had been using against Bill Clinton, his younger opponent who went on to defeat him in the upcoming election.

    "That just goes to show," Bush said, that "youth and inexperience are no match for maturity and determination."

    George H.W. Bush at the Beijing Olympics greeting members of the U.S. women's fencing team. He's with the late FIE president Rene Roche. Flanking the presidents are Gabrielle Tabori Sabharwal and Sunil Sabharwal, secretary general of the International Fair Play Committee.
    President Bush and Barbara Bush stayed for two hours afterward to pose for pictures with the team and USOC staff.

    “It was notable that the "Dream Team," the men's Olympic basketball team, was not on hand. The team and the USOC had been embattled in a controversy in Barcelona from the start, and at the medal ceremonies, the team pinned down their flaps of their jackets to hide the USOC sponsor logo. Others covered up the logo with American flags,” says Moran.

    In the late 1990s, when Houston was trying to win the U.S. bid for the Olympics, Bush appeared at a luncheon on behalf of the bid committee, opening his blazer to flash a lining with red, white and blue stripes.

    Bush made his only trip to the Games in 2008 as he and President George W. Bush became the first father-son presidents to attend the Olympics.

    The elder Bush, who was U.S. envoy in China in the 1970s, was honorary captain of the U.S. team and attended the U.S.-China basketball game.

    Basketball player LeBron James greeted him, “What’s up, Pops?” and Kobe Bryant gave him a hug.

    Bush also saw Michael Phelps set a world record en route to his eight gold medals.

    The visit was the 22nd for Bush to China since his term ended as president.

    Written by Karen Rosen in Tokyo

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