VANCOUVER - Through a victorious presidential campaign, an inauguration, and all the travels that come with the office, Vice President Joe Biden had never seen his wife and family more excited.
"This is a real kick for us," Biden told U.S. Olympians Friday after arriving at the Vancouver Games.
Biden spoke to the American athletes before they marched in the opening ceremony, then posed for photos with each U.S. team. He also expressed condolences to the country of Georgia after the death of luger Nodar Kumaritashvili during training yesterday.
"This is a nation that has gone through an awful lot in the last three or four years," Biden said. "It's a small nation of 4 or 5 million people, and the pride they had in representing their country here at the Olympics, and now to suffer this loss is just tragic."
Biden spoke for more than 10 minutes as the athletes snapped photos of their famous visitor. Joining them in the audience were U.S. Olympic greats Mike Eruzione, Peggy Fleming, and Vonetta Flowers.
"You're going to be the face of America for the next couple weeks," Biden said. "The whole world isn't looking at me or the President or anybody else, for that matter."
Biden, along with his wife, Jill, and members of President Obama's cabinet, came to Vancouver to represent the United States at the opening and closing ceremonies and other events. He spoke to the athletes in a room that felt far from the glamour of the Olympics but in fact was next door to the site of the opening ceremony, a windowless temporary space at Canada Hockey Place that he jokingly called a "garage/basement."
Biden recalled that when he and his wife were first married, she tutored skaters, and they witnessed the dedication of elite athletes.
"People have no idea how hard you worked to get to this place," Biden said. "But they have a sense of it. They have a sense about your perseverance and about your sacrifice. But it's a lot more. It's a lot more than perfect form on a ski jump. It's a lot more than the precision of figure skating.
"The best physical specimens - and most of you are just that - that's not enough."