(President George W. Bush with sprinter Lopez Lomong who was the American flag bearer in the opening ceremonies. Lomong is originally from Sudan.)
Since the modern Olympics were first held in 1896, American Presidents have attended many of them. However, this has only been the case when these Olympics were held in the United States until 2008. As described in Bush first U.S. President to attend Olympic Games on foreign soil, President George W. Bush is the first American President to leave the USA to attend the Olympic Games.
The unsigned article notes, "President Bush is so emphatic about going to the Olympics in China that one might think flying halfway around the globe to attend is simply what presidents do.Never before now has a U.S. president attended an Olympic Games on foreign soil. And Bush isn't just dropping by. He is managing his time to soak in as much as he can.The way the president sees it, this grand world affair begins and ends with sports, not politics. In a long line of presidents who have been sports buffs, there may be no bigger one than Bush, who has set up unfettered blocks of time in Beijing to watch athletes compete."
A White House Press release of the President's address to American athletes:
Congratulations for representing the finest nation on the face of the Earth. (Applause.) The honorary captain and I are proud to be with you. We're here to wish you all the very best.
I first want to say thanks to the U.S. Olympic Committee, chaired by Peter Ueberroth, CEO Jim Scherr, Judge Charles Lee. I wasn't exactly sure what to say to you, except to start with, God, I love our country and I love what we stand for. (Applause.) And I love being with you.
Laura and I and a lot of our family are here to cheer you on. We're just a handful of a lot of folks who care about you a lot. There are going to be a lot of people pulling for you. We want you to win as many golds as you possibly can. (Applause.)
We appreciate all the hard work you've put in to get to this spot. It's got to be really exciting -- thinking about marching in that stadium and representing our country. So I guess all I've got to say is, go for it, give it all you've got, and may God bless you. (Applause.)
I do find it hard to believe that this is the first time an American President has traveled abroad to attend the Olympics. It would have been easy to attend the games when they have been held in Canada for example. Hopefully, this is the start of a trend and future presidents will do this as well.