From: David Lynch
Sent: Thursday, September 29, 2016 2:28 PM
To: Rutherford, Sarah D. EOP/WHO
Cc: Gabriel, Brian A. EOP/WHO; Velz, Peter T. EOP/WHO
Subject: pool report
In Town Pool No. 1 (check quotes against transcript)
The president, vice president and first lady entered the East Room at 12:50pm, roughly 45 minutes behind schedule, to a raucous welcome from several hundred waiting members of the 2016 US Olympic and Paralympic teams.
"Hello everybody! Welcome to the White House!" the president said, speaking from behind a podium at the south end of the room, flanked by the vice president on his left and first lady on his right.
The first several rows in front of the president were occupied by wheelchair paralympians. All of the athletes wore matching red track jackets with U-S-A in a vertical row on their backs, black tights and neon yellow Nike shoes. As the president spoke, dozens of smartphones, held aloft by the young men and women, captured his remarks.
Obama said he had contemplated doing a gymnastics floor routine on his way into the room, prompting the first lady to joke, "and you can't touch your toes." The president celebrated the US teams' achievements, singling out swimmers Katie Ledecky and Michael Phelps and track star Allyson Felix. He also highlighted the nation's diversity.
"America's greatness doesn't only come from high scores and fast times," he said.
Obama continued in a lighter vein, saying members of the team came in different shapes and sizes but were "all very good looking" and exuded health. At that, the first lady interrupted with a cry of "fruits and vegetables."
He later returned to the diversity theme, saying that the US gathers "talent from every corner of the globe."
"We've become something more than sum of our parts," he added. "We've become Americans - together."
The president applauded American women for their performance in the summer games, where they won 61 medals, the most ever. "2016 belonged to America's women," he said.
The president also noted that Olympians Tommy Smith and John Carlos, famous for their raised-fist protests at the 1968 games in Mexico City, were in attendance. "Their powerful silent protest in the '68 games was controversial, but it woke folks up," the president said.
At 1:04, the president finished by saying: "Congratulations. God bless you and God bless the USA."
There was a joke off mike that your distant pooler could not hear. A team representative presented the president with a gift of a surfboard signed by the Olympians and Paralympians. At 1:06pm, the president, first lady and vice president exited the room to loud chants of "USA - USA - USA."
Shortly thereafter, five Olympians appeared on the north portico for a brief and unremarkable Q&A. In response to a question about the possibility of the Olympics returning to Los Angeles, Allyson Felix, the track star, said: "It would be amazing to get the games back in LA."
Speaking before the president's appearance, Hugh Freund, 28, a silver medallist in the three-person keelboat sailing event in the Paralympics, said: "I was saying to one of the Marines on the way in, this is right up there with walking into the opening ceremony right behind the flag-bearer."
"It's pretty cool," added Dee Smith, 64, who finished fourth in the Paralympics single-person keelboat event, speaking as athletes milled about and lounged on the East Room carpet while awaiting the president.-30-
David J. Lynch
The Financial Times