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President Clinton Honors Olympic and Paralympic Athletes

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November 29, 2000

President Clinton Honors Olympic and Paralympic Athletes

Today at the White House, the President will honor the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes for their achievements at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, and emphasize the importance of physical fitness for all Americans, particularly youth. In conjunction with today's program, the President is releasing a report from the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of Education, which identifies ten strategies to promote better health among young people through increased participation in physical activity and sports. Today Secretaries Donna Shalala and Richard Riley also will convene a roundtable with various public and private partners, including the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC), to discuss ways of implementing the strategies in the report.

Honoring U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Athletes. Today the President will welcome members of the 2000 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams to the White House to congratulate them for their success at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia and honor them for their commitment to their country and the pursuit of excellence in sports. Made up of the nation's most accomplished athletes, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams are both a source of great pride and an inspiration for all Americans. The U.S. Teams triumphantly represented the United States, winning 97 Olympic and 109 Paralympic medals and upholding our nation's historic record of Olympic achievement. Placing first overall with 39 gold medals, 25 silver and 33 bronze, the U.S. Olympic Team, with the second largest delegation, exceeded international expectations, with major achievements in the areas of swimming, track and field, basketball, and Greco-Roman wrestling to name but a few disciplines. The U.S. Paralympic Team, the largest U.S. delegation to compete outside the United States, totaling 256 athletes, placed third in medal standings -- finishing strong with 36 gold medals, 39 silver medals and 34 bronze medals.

Strategies to Promote Physical Activity Among Young People. Physical activity is important not just for elite athletes, but for the health of all Americans. Low physical activity represents one of the leading health risk factors facing the U.S. population, and key trends highlight the challenges facing the nation. The percentage of young people who are overweight has doubled since 1980. Yet the percentage of high school students enrolled in daily physical education classes has declined 30 percent between 1991 and 1999. Today the President is releasing a report by the Secretaries of Education and Health and Human Services to encourage young people to participate in physical activity. This report was submitted to the President in response to a directive he issued in June at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA, and brings together for the first time in one document a comprehensive agenda to promote physical activity and sports among young people through strategies such as, strengthening school physical education programs; enhancing community sports and recreation programs; and redesigning communities to facilitate walking and bicycling. The President also will encourage the U.S. Olympians and Paralympians to help carry the message that physical activity is important to young people, families, and schools back home in their communities.

Secretaries' Roundtable and Next Steps in Promoting Physical Activity. In a meeting at the White House today, Secretaries Shalala and Riley will hear from interested public and private partners on ideas and plans for implementing the strategies recommended in the report. With the National Conference on Chronic Disease Prevention and Control Conference taking place today and tomorrow, and the Surgeon General's Conference on Obesity next week, several steps are already underway to highlight the issues outlined in the report. However, the report's strategies involve not just federal action, but commitment and participation throughout the nation, including parents, teachers, coaches, schools, communities, and the private sector.

Today's meeting will mark the start of some key partnerships needed to carry out the recommended strategies. Building on past collaboration with HHS and Education, the Sporting Goods Manufacturers' Association will work with industry partners to launch a national promotion campaign to inspire youth to participate in physical activity and influence parents and school officials to make physical education available in the schools. USOC will expand the focus of its Champions in Life program, which brings Olympic athletes into the schools, to advance the goals of the report and encourage schools to restore quality physical education to the curriculum. Also the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity will partner with HHS and Education to convene the participants in today's meeting, as well as other interested parties, in order to launch an ongoing public-private working group, to carry forward the work begun today.

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