BEIJING President Bush reveled in the spectacular opening moments of the Olympics on Friday, but a burgeoning crisis stole some of his attention as Russia and Georgia neared the brink of all-out war.
Buoyant from his pep talk to U.S. athletes, Bush got a coveted spot inside China's National Stadium and cheered their entrance to extravagant opening ceremonies. "Go for it! Give it all you've got!" the president had urged America's competitors. Bush, a big sports fan, plans to spend much of the weekend watching basketball, swimming and other competitions.
A real-world standoff, though, served as a reminder that the president is never off duty.
Bush was hoping to get in a mountain bike ride today. First lady Laura Bush was breaking off today to tour the sprawling, ancient Forbidden City.
The pace harkened back to the promise Bush made before the trip about his own itinerary.
"I'm pretty relaxed about it," he said. "Not every single minute of every day has to be totally organized. I'll be with a lot of my family, and they're fun to hang around with."
Those family members include his daughter Barbara, brother Marvin, sister Doro, and his dad, former President George H.W. Bush, who introduced him to China as a former envoy to the country in the 1970s.
Father and son stood with each other at the new U.S. Embassy in Beijing on Friday.
Being at the Olympics has one side effect for Bush later bed times.
Some big events don't even start by the time Bush would normally be sleeping. He plans to attend a U.S.-China basketball game, for example, that tips off after 10 p.m. local time.
The president's enthusiasm for the Games comes up at every event. He greeted the U.S. team at the Olympic fencing center and seemed almost at a loss of words.
"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. And I love being with you," Bush said.
His daughter Barbara lit up when she saw the U.S. basketball team. She dashed in to get a picture with NBA star LeBron James' arm around her waist.
In the highly anticipated opening ceremonies, Bush and the first lady stood and waved tiny U.S. flags as the nearly 600-strong U.S. team paraded into National Stadium.
The U.S. athletes followed Syria onto the track, where they walked over pads doused in paint, leaving multicolored streaks of footprints. They proudly waved at the Bushes.
Bush's most official business comes Sunday in meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao and other leaders of the country.
He will also attend church and speak about religious freedom, a sensitive matter in China, where the government allows worship only in officially approved churches.
Bush used the occasion of the embassy ribbon-cutting to praise China's contributions to society and embrace its relationship with the United States.
But on China's turf on the opening day of its grand Olympic affair, Bush also took the opportunity to chide the country's government to allow free speech and worship.
"Candor is most effective where nations have built a relationship of respect and trust," Bush said. "I've worked hard to build that respect and trust. I appreciate the Chinese leadership that have worked hard to build that respect and trust."