LONDON (Reuters) - First Lady Michelle Obama told American Olympians on Friday that it was an “otherworldly” experience for her to be in London to witness them compete on the world stage.
“Some of my fondest memories growing up and even as an adult for that matter involved watching the Olympics on TV. I know each of you probably were in that position,” she said while addressing the U.S. team ahead of the Opening Ceremony later in the day.
“Being here is otherworldly for me, you know. I am still so inspired by all of you. I am still in awe of everything you have achieved.”
She added with a smile: “Try to have fun. Try to breathe a little bit. But also win, right? In the end winning is good.”
As part of her visit as the lead of the U.S. Olympic delegation, she is expected to attend a reception hosted by Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace and meet Samantha Cameron, the wife of British Prime Minister David Cameron.
The highlight of her visit will be the Opening Ceremony - a three-hour extravaganza at the Olympic stadium built in a previously run-down area of east London.
The ceremony, due to be watched by a global audience of more than one billion people, begins at 2000 GMT.
Speaking at the University of East London, where American athletes have a training facility, Obama said watching the Games had inspired her father, who suffered from multiple sclerosis, to retain his athletic spirit.
“In a matter of several years he went from a man who was once a thriving competitor - he was a boxer and swimmer throughout high school - and then he was stripped of all of his hopes,” she said.
“But he retained his love of sports truly. And the Olympics was a special time for him to watch amazing athletes of all abilities compete on the world stage...So these games especially affected our little house on the south side of Chicago.”
She and U.S. President Barack Obama have taken an active interest in the Olympic movement, travelling to Copenhagen in 2009 to pitch Chicago’s failed bid to land the 2016 Summer Games, which will be hosted by Rio de Janeiro.
She has also spearheaded efforts to get children physically fit in a country where obesity is on the rise.
“You never know who you are inspiring. You just never know. From a family like ours on the south side of Chicago to young athletes who are going to pick up a soccer ball or start running after watching something that you all do,” she said.
"I know for many of you that's how you got here watching someone else ... we are proud of you all. And try to have some fun." (Writing by Maria Golovnina; Editing by Mark Meadows; firstname.lastname@example.org; Reuters Messaging:; email@example.com; +44 20 7542 7933; For all the latest; Olympic news go to here)
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.