DALLAS (Reuters) - Michelle Obama offered a pep talk on Monday to U.S. athletes who will be competing at the 2012 London Olympics while announcing a nationwide program to get more American children active.
The U.S. first lady, who will lead the U.S. delegation to the opening ceremony of the July 27-August 12 London Olympics, is hoping the American athletes will inspire children to get active as part of her “Let’s Move!” initiative.
Speaking at the United States Olympic Committee’s media summit, Obama announced a joint effort with the USOC and 10 sports federations to get 1.7 million American children, not already involved in exercise programs, to commit to beginner level Olympic sports.
“This summer, my hope is that together with our children we can support Team USA not just by cheering them on but by striving to live up to the example they have set,” said Obama, flanked by athletes expected to challenge for medals in London.
“In the end some of these athletes will bring home the gold but all of them will make our country proud, all of them will inspire a generation of young people to get active.”
With obesity among American children on the rise, Obama has spearheaded efforts to get kids physically fit.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity now affects 17 percent (or 12.5 million) of all children and adolescents aged two to 19 years old in the United States.
USA Tennis, USA Track and Field and the U.S. Soccer Federation are among the 10 national governing sports bodies hoping to engage hundreds of thousands of children in various programs by the end of the year.
USA Swimming hopes to enroll 530,000 new learn-to-swim participants while USA Cycling will offer free clinics and 30-day memberships to 350 BMX tracks across the country.
Obama and U.S. President Barack Obama have taken an active interest in the Olympic movement, even traveling to Copenhagen in 2009 to pitch Chicago’s failed bid to land the 2016 Summer Games, which will be hosted by Rio de Janeiro.
“When I‘m sitting in that stadium in London cheering on Team USA, I’ll be thinking about all those young people cheering them on at home,” said Obama.
“I’ll be thinking of the power of the Games to truly inspire a generation and how our Olympic and Paralympic athletes can serve as role models.”
Reporting by Steve Keating in Dallas