“Don’t tear up the place,” President Barack Obama cautioned visitors in an East Room bustling with 200 rowdy athletes, most in Team USA uniforms.
“We already did,” one shouted out.
The president and wife Michelle welcomed teams and delegations from the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games yesterday for a White House meet-and-greet reception.
“I don’t know how you do it,” the first lady said. “That’s the thing with the winter Olympics. You guys do crazy things. Careening down the face of mountains — craziness! Throwing each other up in the air!”
“All of you remind us of the Olympic creed,” the president said. “The most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the fight.” He added: “The courage, the stick-to-it-ness, the confidence and the joy of competition, that keeps you moving, that helps our country.”
In February’s games, Americans took home 46 medals.
The president pointed out that “American women won more medals than any other nation.”
Most of the athletes were able to talk to the president and first lady briefly at the event.
“He told us he was proud of us,” said Amanda Kessel, 22, a member of the American women’s hockey team, which won silver.
“It was tough going there, thinking about what was in the news,” said gold medalist Sage Kotsenburg, a snowboarder. “But the bottom line is, we are there to compete, and to do the job. It didn’t affect my morale, and we stayed positive.”
The president gave a shout-out to a free-style skier, Gus Kenworthy, who brought back a few stray dogs.
“I would like to personally thank all of our snowboarders and free-style skiers for making newscasters across America say things like ‘back to back double cork 1260,”’ Obama joked. “I don’t know what that means, really, but I just wanted to say it. I’m pretty sure I’m the first president to ever say that.”
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Across town at the British Embassy, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House Majority whip, and his son, Connor, attended a reception for Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group.
“Virgin is much more than a British company, it’s a global brand,” said Patrick Davies, the embassy’s deputy head of mission. Virgin Atlantic, Branson’s airline, marks its 30th anniversary this year.
“Euro-US trade is $30,000 per second,” added Davies, pointing to an embassy poster promoting British entrepreneurship with Branson’s photo.
“The most exciting thing we’ve got at the moment is space,” said Branson, wearing a simple buttoned-down shirt, blazer and black jeans. Virgin Galactic, his latest space travel venture, is on track for launch this year.
“It’s going to be Earth-shattering,” he said. “It’s taking longer than we expected, but it’s rocket science.
“I think it will be worth the wait,” he said. “Later this year I’ll be going up and the 700 or 800 people who have signed up will be going up.”
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The same evening, former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, were the guests of honor for a dinner and performance at Arena Stage on the opening night of “Camp David,” a new play about Carter’s 1978 Camp David Accords, which brokered a deal between Egypt and Israel.
Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Minority Leader, and Mort Zuckerman, the billionaire real estate and media tycoon, also were in attendance.
After the show, Carter and Jehan Sadat, widow of Anwar Sadat, joined the cast onstage for a standing ovation.