Salt Lake City – President Bush declared the Olympic Winter Games officially open Friday night, saying that the 17-day event would produce "lasting memories of laughter and triumph."
"On behalf of a proud, determined and grateful nation, I declare open the games of Salt Lake City, celebrating the Winter Olympic Games," Bush said, departing from the traditional Olympic declaration to include a patriotic preface.
Bush flew to the opening in Salt Lake City's Rice-Eccles Olympic Stadium subfreezing temperatures and virtually unprecedented security concerns. Security for the games involved $310-million plan and 15,000 soldiers, Secret Service agents, police and volunteers.
Before the games, the president joked, "I'm so confident about the security situation that I came."
Bush spent most of the ceremonies sitting in an open-air skybox with political officials from several of the participating nations. Earlier, he met with about a dozen U.S. athletes, describing the Olympic team as "the best of America."
"These games come at a perfect time for our country -- at a time of sadness and determination and resolve," Bush said. He ended his remarks by repeating the words of Todd Beamer, the United Flight 93 passenger who joined his fellow passengers in confronting hijackers before the plane crashed in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11.
The athletes should try to reflect the virtues displayed by the firefighters and other rescue workers who helped after the terror attacks, Bush said.
"All people appreciate the discipline that produces excellence, the courage that overcomes difficult odds and the character that creates champions," Bush said.
The president said it's important for all Americans to root hard for U.S. athletes, but he seemed to agree that too much of American patriotic feelings might overshadow the games.
"This is an international event and one of the things that's important is that there be world unity, and this is a nice place to have world unity."
But during a tour of the Mormon Church in Salt Lake City, Bush acknowledged that the opening ceremonies will tug at Americans' hearts.
"No question that tonight's going to be an emotional moment, though. I mean we're the host country and we're a nation that's been under attack."
"The Olympics give the world a chance in the midst of a difficult struggle to celebrate international peace and cooperation," Bush said. He was joined by the U.S. delegation, including Secretary of State Colin Powell and former baseball star Cal Ripken.
Bush flew to Utah after stopping in Denver for a farm speech. After the ceremonies, he was scheduled to fly to Jackson, Wyo., to spend a wintry weekend at the home of Roland Betts. Betts and Bush were classmates at Yale University and partners in the Texas Rangers major league baseball team.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.