Bush says Olympics will help Americans recover from terrorist attacks

Friday, February 8th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DENVER (AP) _ President Bush, casting the Olympic Games as a patriotic tribute to U.S. virtues, said Friday the competition in Salt Lake City will help America recover from the Sept. 11 attacks and ``celebrate international peace and cooperation.''

``We believe that these ideals _ liberty and freedom _ make it possible for people to live together in peace, and the Olympics give the world a chance in the middle of a difficult struggle to celebrate international peace and cooperation,'' Bush said in remarks prepared for delivery at an Olympic reception.

The president, who stopped in Denver for a farm speech before flying to Utah, was formally opening the winter games in ceremonies broadcast worldwide from the chilly Rice-Eccles Olympic Stadium.

He told a cattle-industry convention he wants a farm policy that is both generous and affordable.

``To put it bluntly, what we don't want to do is overpromise the farmers that under perform,'' Bush said, commenting on farm-subsidy legislation now before Congress. ``I hope the Senate hears that.''

The $2.1 trillion budget Bush sent to Congress earlier this month would reduce subsidy payments to farmers by $5 billion, reflecting administration hopes that crop prices will rise next year. The budget fulfills the president's promise to support $73.5 billion in new agriculture spending over the next decade, but the administration disagrees with Democrats on how quickly the money should be spent.

A Democratic-backed farm bill pending in the Senate would use an estimated $44 billion by 2007, leaving about $30 billion for the remaining five years. Congress would either have to slash farm programs then or approve another spending increase. A House-passed farm bill would cost $34.6 billion in the first five years.

Bush told his Denver audience, ``What we want is to make sure that when the bill is passed, that the $73 billion is spent evenly, or relatively evenly, over the decade. ... What we don't want to do is use the taxpayers' money to try to cobble together a loose coalition to get votes, which will ultimately hurt the agricultural sector of the United States.''

Turning to the war on terrorism, Bush said, ``We're just beginning. Afghanistan is the first theater in the war against terror.'' He said the United States ``cannot and will not rest'' until the world is rid of terror.

The president was meeting U.S. athletes in a session attended by four members of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, owner of the World Trade Center.

A tattered American flag found at the World Trade Center after the terror attack was being displayed for Bush in a wooden case during the athletes' meeting. The flag also will fly at the opening ceremonies.

Olympic organizers initially balked at flying the flag because they said the international games should not become overly focused on the U.S. attacks.

Still, aides said the president hoped to use the games as an example of the ideals that helped America recover from the attacks and launch a global war against terrorism.

``You will see throughout the president's remarks a metaphor of the heroism that was shown by New Yorkers, and the people in Washington, D.C., at the Pentagon and Pennsylvania, and all Americans in fighting for our ideals since our country was attacked,'' White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said.

The president, in remarks released by the White House in advance of the speech, said: ``All people appreciate the discipline that produces excellence, the courage that overcomes difficult odds and the character the creates champions.''

At the opening ceremonies, Bush planned to be on the field for the singing of the national anthem and was opening the games with remarks traditionally delivered by the host nation's leader. According to the White House, Bush was saying: ``I declare open the games of Salt Lake City, celebrating the Winter Olympic Games.''

For the bulk of the opening ceremonies, Bush planned to sit in an open air sky box with political and Olympic VIPs.

Afterward, he was flying to Jackson, Wyo., to spend a wintry weekend at the home of Roland Betts. Betts and Bush were classmates at Yale University and partners in the Texas Rangers major league baseball team.