About the Author: Arturo A. Valenzuela serves as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.
The 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia kicked into high gear this week. This is, in fact, the second time that our northern neighbor has hosted the Winter Olympics, bringing the world's athletes to the Western Hemisphere. The Olympic Spirit is a wonderful example of the power of sport to bring all citizens of the world together in pursuit of a common goal: Citius, Altius, Fortius; Swifter, Higher, Stronger. By simply qualifying for the games, the athletes serve as role models to all of us.
TeamUSA is in the thick of the competition in all events. We were delighted to have Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden lead the U.S. delegation to the opening ceremony and meet our 216 athletes, both returning and first-time Olympians. It was wonderful to see athletes from so many countries in the hemisphere walking into the opening ceremonies and the warm welcome they received from the spectators present at BC Place. The different uniforms representing the unique culture of each country were a sight to see. I especially enjoyed the team from Bermuda wearing shorts as part of their official uniform--good thing this was the first ever Olympic Ceremonies held inside!
The State Department sent our own "team" to the Winter Games, starting with the U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson, followed by our Consul General in Vancouver Phil Chicola, and his hard-working group from the consulate there, Embassy Ottawa, and our other consulates throughout Canada. I want to thank all of our embassy and consulate staff working hard at the games. Those watching the opening ceremony might have heard some of the amazing statistics about our close relationship with our northern neighbor. Our diplomatic team is working both behind the scenes and holding official meetings during the Winter Games to strengthen U.S.-Canadian relations and enhance our many global partnerships with Canada. You can follow Ambassador Jacobson's experience at the games on Twitter @usembassyottawa.
Congratulations are due to the U.S. team on a great first week. As of this writing, the United States has eight total medals, including two gold; congrats to Hannah Kearney and Seth Wescott on their victories. Johnny Spillane's silver medal in the Nordic combined was historic; the United States' first medal in a Nordic event ever! I am looking forward in the days ahead to watching more historic performances, hard fought competitions, and amazing displays of sportsmanship. I am sure the U.S. team will continue to shine as the Alpine Skiing events, hockey, and figure skating competitions get into full swing. Good luck to all of the competitors; stay safe and compete hard. Go TeamUSA!