Bush mixes sports, politics at Olympics

August 11th, 2008 - 12:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 11 (DPA) US President George W. Bush said China has come a long way since he rode a bike here in 1975 and believes that the current Olympics will open up the country even further. “I think the Olympics are going to serve as a chance for people to come and see China the way it is, and let the Chinese see the world and interface and have the opportunity to converse with people from around the world,” Bush told American broadcaster NBC in an interview Monday.

“This is a very positive development, in my view, for peace.”

Bush came to Beijing Thursday, attended the opening ceremony and various sports competitions ranging from swimming to basketball, and also held political meetings with the Chinese leadership.

“First of all, I think the Chinese are being great hosts. The venues are fantastic. And our team is fired up - and so am I. I’m excited to be here. It’s such a thrill to watch our men and women compete,” said Bush.

Superswimmer Michael Phelps named Bush’s presence an inspiration as he got the first of a possible eight golds and NBA stars were also on fire in a 101-70 win over China after meeting the president before the tip off.

“Their response was, thanks for coming; we are really, really honoured to represent America. And I was impressed by them. And of course they go out and put on a great performance,” Bush said.

The president also touched on doping, taking the example of his favourite sport of baseball which has seen several drug cases in the past. Bush said a drug-free sport was needed for continuity and for educational reasons as well.

“We don’t want adults sending mixed messages to children, that it’s okay to shoot up drugs in order to become a star, because it’s not okay,” said Bush.

Bush has been criticised at home for coming simply as a sports fan to Beijing, but he insisted that politics was always on his mind and that he raised every issue from human rights to Sudan and Iran in his meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao and others.

“It’s very important for the American people to know that coming here gave me a chance, obviously, to root for our team, but it’s also coming here is a sign of respect for the Chinese people.”

“This is a big, important nation. We’ll have our differences, we’ll have our agreements. But in order to find common ground and to move the world toward peace, it is important for this country to show respect for the people of the country.

In the NBC interview, Bush also recalled his first trips to China when his father, George Bush, was a US envoy before formal diplomatic ties were established between the two countries.

“There’s a great connection. You know, I can remember riding my bike around Beijing in 1975, and it is unbelievable how far this has changed,” he said.

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