With the kind of pageantry and imagery that has become a trademark of his White House, President Reagan paid tribute to the U.S. Summer Olympic team Monday for a drug-free performance that "showed the world."
Under bright sunshine on the South Lawn, Reagan welcomed the men and women of the 611-member team to the White House as heroes one and all whose achievements went well beyond their 94 gold, silver or bronze medals."I believe people who go out and give their all in fair and competitive sport are winners," he said. "In Seoul, we claimed 94 medals and 611 winners. All of you, you're 611 reasons for America to be proud."
Though the U.S. team fared third in the medal tally in Seoul, behind the Soviet Union and East Germany, there was no disappointment in the air as the Olympians reveled in the limelight of the White House.
Matt Biondi, a gold medalist in swimming, and record-breaking runner Florence Griffith Joyner were among the several hundred who attended, seeking autographs and handshakes from a smiling Reagan, who joined them for a team portrait.
The sea of red, white and blue uniforms provided a patriotic backdrop for a campaign-season event that concluded with Reagan, hand over his heart, and the young, flag-waving athletes join in singing the "Star Spangled Banner."
Standing before an audience that included members of the Cabinet, Reagan praised the athletes for "performing with grit and determination."
"This team showed the world that America stands for fair play and sportsmanlike conduct," he said. "While here, I want to say that Nancy and I are so proud of you we'd give the whole team a gold medal. Congratulations. You are all champions."
The ceremony, which had been scheduled for some time, coincided with the start of what Reagan has designated as "Drug-Free America Week." And he used the occasion to applaud the American team for being true to the anti-drug slogan championed by his wife Nancy: "Just say no."
"Not relying on drugs or banned substances, you set a fine example for the youth of America," he declared.