Rio 2016: 'Bring home the gold' - Obama rallies Team USA


Barack Obama has urged the United States' athletes at Rio 2016 to "bring home the gold" in a rousing speech ahead of the first day of competition at the Games.

The US president said he is "ready to root on Team USA" over the next three weeks, and is eagerly anticipating which competitor will "inspire" a nation.

Obama was not present at the opening ceremony in the Maracana Stadium on Friday, but sent a video message to all of Team USA in his weekly address.

"Every four years, our nation's attention turns to a competition that's as heated as it is historic," he said.

"People pack arenas and wave flags. Journalists judge every move and over-analyse every misstep. Sometimes we're let down, but more often we're lifted up. And just when we think we've seen it all, we see something happen in a race that we've never seen before.

"I'm talking, of course, about the Summer Olympics.

"This month, Rio is hosting the first-ever Games held in South America - and we're ready to root on Team USA. We're excited to see who will inspire us this time; whose speed will remind us of Jesse Owens; whose feats will remind us of Bob Beamon's amazing jump? Which young American will leave us awestruck, the way a teenager named Kerri Strug did when she stuck that landing, and when another kid named Cassius Clay gave the world its first glimpse of greatness? Who will match Mary Lou Retton's perfection; or pull off an upset like Rulon Gardner's; or dominate like the Dream Team?

"That's why we watch. And we have a lot to look forward to this year. Team USA reminds the world why America always sets the gold standard: We're a nation of immigrants that finds strength in our diversity and unity in our national pride.

He added: "When you watch these Games, remember that it's about so much more than the moments going by in a flash. Think about the countless hours these athletes put in, knowing it could mean the difference in a split-second victory that earns them a lifetime of pride, and gives us enduring memories. 

"It's about the character it takes to train your heart out, even when no one's watching. Just hard work, focus, and a dream. That's the Olympic spirit - and it's the American spirit, too.

"In our Olympians, we recognise that no one accomplishes greatness alone. Even solo athletes have a coach beside them and a country behind them. 

"In a season of intense politics, let's cherish this opportunity to come together around one flag.

"In a time of challenge around the world, let's appreciate the peaceful competition and sportsmanship we'll see, the hugs and high-fives and the empathy and understanding between rivals who know we share a common humanity. 

"To all of our Olympic and Paralympic athletes wearing the red, white, and blue - know that your country couldn't be prouder of you. We admire all the work you've done to get to Rio and everything you'll do there. Thank you for showing the world the best of America. And know that when you get up on that podium, we'll be singing the national anthem - and maybe even shedding a tear - right alongside you.

"Now go bring home the gold!"