LOS ANGELES -- President Reagan, former athlete, sportscaster and film portrayer of Notre Dame's fighting spirit, implored U.S. Olympians today 'to push yourselves to the limit ... Do it for the Gipper.'
He did not mention the Soviet boycott in addressing the 614 American athletes gathered at the University of Southern California hours before he was to officially open the 23rd Olympiad, but he struck the same patriotic theme he did earlier in his weekly political radio address.
'I want you to know just how proud all of us are to have you representing us,' he said. 'And when you see us out in the stands waving Old Glory, remember, we're waving it for you.'
'Our affection and pride is something you can count on,' he said. 'We'll be cheering -- win, lose or draw.'
Referring to his days as a high school and college football player, and his famous movie role as dying Notre Dame halfback George Gipp, Reagan exhorted the team in the style of legendary Irish coach Knute Rockne:
'So when you're out there set your sights high -- then go for it! Do it for yourselves, for your families, for your country. And if I may be a bit presumptuous -- do it for the Gipper.'
Reagan repeated the main message of his radio address that 'There is a new patriotism spreading across our country ... a positive attitude toward those things fundamental to America that draw us together: Our freedom, our decency, and sense of fair play as a people.' - end adv for 4:45 pm matter- - adv for 12:06 p.m. -
In his weekly paid political radio speech, Reagan recalled how he greeted one of the torch-bearers at the White House three months ago.
'Every where the torch went, people came out of their homes and poured into the streets to cheer, and wave the flag and urge the runners on. This outpouring reflected, I think, the new patriotism that has swept our land.'
'There is a spirit of renewal among the young,' he said. 'They seem to take a quiet pride in all this nation was and is; they show a happiness with our country that is wonderful to see.'
Reagan's Olympic day theme was similar to that of his recent campaign speeches, boasting of an optimistic spirit in the land, even when it comes to the youth culture.
'I think we can hear and discern in their music these days, certainly more than in the past, an optimism and a feeling of affection for our nation,' he said.
Invoking the names of past Olympic heroes, Jesse Owens, Babe Didrickson and Jim Thorpe, Reagan said:
'The torch is passed -- the games begin -- the 23rd Olympiad of the modern era commences. And as it does, just for a moment, we think of the words of the Psalm: 'This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.'' -end advance matter-
Reagan was the first sitting president to open the games. The last chief executive to have the opportunity was Herbert Hoover, who declined to attend the 1932 pageant in Los Angeles.
'For just 27 words it just wasn't worth it for the president of the United States to come all the way' from Washington, he said.
He was soon turned out of office by Franklin Roosevelt.
In this age of jet travel and media politics, it is worth it for President Reagan, in a battle for re-election, to go cross-country to deliver only 16 words at the opening ceremonies, becoming the first president to do so.
The former high school athlete, sports announcer and Hollywood portrayer of one of America's legendary amateur athletes, Notre Dame's George Gipp, Reagan will pronounce at about 10:15 p.m. EDT today: 'I declare open the Games of Los Angeles, celebrating the 23rd Olympiad of the modern era.'
Despite the 16 words and the late hour, Reagan will turn the opening of the Olympics -- the first ever attended by a president while in office -- into political capital in time for evening newscasts and Sunday morning newspapers.
He makes his weekly paid radio address, probably on the Olympics, and greets the U.S. athletes gathered at the University of Southern California in the afternoon, an occasion for reminding them and the world of the Soviet boycott.
Reagan will watch the parade of nations around the Los Angeles Coliseum track, declare the Games open and watch the dramatic torch-lighting.
Then he goes by helicopter to his ranch north of Santa Barbara, Calif., for a 19-day vacation that ends when he gives away his his younger daughter, Patti Davis, in her wedding to her yoga instructor at a Los Angeles hotel Aug. 14.
Afterward, he will return to Washington for a few days and is expected to do a little campaigning on his way to renomination at the Republican Convention in Dallas Aug. 22.
Wrapping up business at the White House Friday, Reagan met with the president-elect of Panama, Nicholas Ardito Barletta. A new dispute over proposed space weapons talks with the Soviets took up some time.
The White House said Friday U.S. negotiators will show up in Vienna for the talks on space weapons despite a Soviet announcement that the 'present position of the United States makes impossible the contact of negotiations.'
White House spokesman Larry Speakes said negotiations for the Vienna meeting are still under way in diplomatic channels.
'We will continue our discussions with the Soviets,' Speakes said.