BEIJING Most days, being the U.S. president means trying to extinguish one blooming crisis after another. Then there are days like Saturday.
Mountain biking on the Olympic course. Getting in a couple of hits with the women's beach volleyball team. Chuckling after being the target of a softball player's practical joke. Picking events and knowing he could get in, with a police escort ensuring traffic wasn't a problem.
President Bush, a longtime sports fan, was immersing himself into the Olympic spirit with abandon, acting like a kid even when his body was reminding him that he's 62.
Bush also has official business on his agenda today in meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao and other leaders of the country. He attended church and spoke about religious freedom, a sensitive matter in China, where the government allows worship only in officially approved churches.
But mostly Saturday was a day for athletics, with Bush brushing off reporters' attempts to ask him about the Georgia crisis. He even invented his own event, speed-grazing, as he hopped from one sport to another, joking and offering encouragement to U.S. athletes.
After an early wake-up call, the president headed straight to the Laoshan Olympic mountain-biking course, passing iconic Tiananmen Square along the way, as wife Laura went on a tour of the Forbidden City. Bush, a regular biker, had been itching to get back to the course that he tried out with Chinese Olympic hopefuls in 2005 during his last visit to Beijing.
Dressed in a green T-shirt and black shorts, the president biked more than an hour on the course on a warm, muggy, hazy day, accompanied by Secret Service agents and aides.
After slipping into dry clothes, the president headed for the beach volleyball at Chaoyang Park.
The president then posed for pictures and visited with several men and women volleyball players before heading to watch the U.S. women's softball team practice.
Bush huddled with the team for photos, and when they broke up, there was a chalk handprint on the back of his sweat-stained blue plaid shirt.
"You've been 'Bergied,"' he was told by the players, referring to the signature prank of outfielder Laura Berg.
Bush met with corporate sponsors of the U.S. Olympic team later in the day, then made his statement on Georgia before hustling to the Olympic basketball arena to catch the women's game between the U.S. and the Czech Republic.