Remarks at a White House Ceremony on the 1984 Olympic Torch Relay

May 14, 1984

Members of the Congress, distinguished guests, and friends of the Olympics, it's a pleasure to welcome you and to have this opportunity to take part in this ceremony.

The 1984 Olympic Torch Relay carries on in the footsteps of 10 previous Olympics. By the time the torch reaches the Los Angeles Coliseum on July 28th, it will have passed through 33 States, more than a thousand communities, and, as you've probably guessed, through the District of Columbia.

But I believe this year's relay is truly special, because it's giving something back to our young people. Thanks to the generosity of thousands of Americans, we now have a multimillion-dollar fund to promote and expand amateur sport training. I'm so pleased that the Legacy for Youth Program will help the Special Olympics, the family YMCA's, Boys' Clubs and Girls' Clubs of America strengthen their commitment to the growth and well-being of young people all across America.

The Olympic torch, the symbol of continuity between the ancient and modern Olympic games, was a proud tradition. It is now in our hands, and the United States is totally committed to upholding the Olympic Charter and the traditions which this torch represents. As the host nation for the games of the 23d Olympiad, we will fulfill our responsibilities. Athletes and Olympic officials of all countries will find a warm welcome in Los Angeles and will be treated equally and without discrimination.

As you know, the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee and the International Olympic Committee have done everything possible to create a hospitable climate in which all participants will be able to perform to the best of their ability. And I have instructed agencies of the Federal Government to cooperate fully with Olympic and local officials to ensure the safety of all participants.

We consider sport to be one of the finest opportunities for people of all nations to come and to know and to understand each other. And in sport, nothing can match the competition of the Olympics. The Olympics provide the ultimate experience in watching athletes strive through honest effort, fair play, discipline, and determination to reach the top. Athletes know better than anyone that there is more, much more, to the Olympic experience than winning medals. It's the personal striving, the ability to achieve the fullest measure of human potential that counts most. Athletes look to their sport with a common mind, knowing that they will never go fast enough to say, ``This is as fast as we can go.'' There will always be a new standard to aim for -- that last fraction of an inch, that extra second.

Athletes all over the world live by the Olympic motto: Swifter, higher, stronger. Olympics breed inspiration. Who will ever forget Jesse Owens' achievements in 1936; Bob Beamon's 29-foot, 2\1/2\-inch broadjump in Mexico City? The thrill of striving for excellence in sports, as in other areas of our lives, fires our imagination, stirs us to dream great dreams, and often enables us to achieve them. By embracing the Olympic tradition, we have reason to look to the future with optimism and hope because the Olympic spirit carries beyond the field of competition.

Do we place too much emphasis on sports or expect too much of them? I don't think so. The Olympics were started more than 2,000 years ago to hopefully offer a substitute to the constant warfare between the city-states of Greece. They were revived on an international basis nearly a century ago, and again, the goal was peace and understanding. Let us keep that Olympic tradition alive in Los Angeles and resolve that the Olympic flame will burn ever brighter.

And now, let's get that Olympic torch on to Los Angeles. I'll see you all there, and thank you, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 5:14 p.m. on the South Lawn at the White House.

Following the President's remarks, Kurt Thomas, a former Olympic gymnast, passed the flame from his torch to that of Charlotte Pearson, a member of the Special Olympics team.