The Delegation is joined by Ambassador Foley at the airport in Toyko. Digital photography by Tipper Gore.

I've loved sports all my life and have followed the Olympic Games as long as I can remember. So you can imagine how thrilled I was when President Clinton invited me to lead the U.S. Presidential Delegation to the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano. I checked my history books to learn a little more about the role of the U.S. Presidential Delegation in the Olympic tradition.

The involvement of the President of the United States with the Olympic Games dates back to 1908 when Teddy Roosevelt hosted the athletes and officials of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) after the Summer Games in London. He was designated Honorary President of the USOC, especially for the sense of humor he displayed in greeting the returning athletes with a caged lion (the British mascot).

Vice President Mondale was the first to head a group of delegates to the Winter Games in Lake Placid. Not all Heads of Delegations have been officeholders. In addition to Presidents and Vice Presidents, their wives and sometimes even family members have taken on that role. In 1992, Arnold Schwarzenegger was asked by President Bush to head the Delegation to Barcelona.

Jodi Cobb, Rudy Galindo, Mary Lou Retton, Dr. Tenley Albright, Herbie Hancock, Beth Renge and Scott Oki.

Delegation members have traditionally been a mix of individuals who represent our country and also have ties to the host country. The U.S. Presidential Delegation assembled to travel to Nagano includes individuals from across the nation who have distinguished themselves in so many ways.

  • Ambassador Thomas Foley took up the diplomatic post to Japan November, 1997. As Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, he was noted for his efforts to strengthen Japanese American ties, among his other accomplishments over a distinguished 30 year career.

Herbie Hancock, Mary Lou Retton and Rudy Galindo on the flight to Japan. Digital Photography by Tipper Gore.

  • Olympic Gold Medalist Mary Lou Retton captured our hearts during the 1984 Games in Los Angeles when she landed a perfect "10" vault to win the All-Around Gold Medal in gymnastics.

  • Dr. Tenley Albright began ice skating at the age of 10 to overcome polio. By the age of 20, she had won every major figure skating championship possible, including a gold medal in the 1956 Winter Olympics in Italy.

  • In one of the most memorable moments in American figure skating, Rudy Galindo triumphed at the 1996 U.S. Championships. Skating in his hometown of San Jose, California, he staged an upset victory to become the oldest (26) gold medalist in 70 years, and the first Mexican American.

  • Herbie Hancock began his musical career as a child prodigy, performing Mozart with the Chicago Symphony at the age of 11, and has grown to become one of the world's best known and best loved jazz musicians.

  • Scott Oki introduced the Windows centric strategy to Microsoft in 1990. After 10 years with the software company, he retired to found his own company, Oki Development, and to create the Oki Foundation benefitting children.

  • Jodi Cobb has been a staff photographer for National Geographic since 1978. She was one of the first photographers to cross China when it reopened to the West, travelling 7,000 miles in two months for her book Journey Into China. More recently she entered another world closed to outsiders, the world of the Japanese geisha, for her photography book Geisha.

  • Beth Renge is the first Japanese American woman to own a broker-dealer investment securities firm. Since 1985, she has participated with Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party as one of six Japanese Americans to serve as a bridge between the United States and Japan.

They are Olympians, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, athletes and artists. After a 15 hour flight, we've talked, laughed and gotten to know each other better. They are a terrific group and I am so proud to share this unique experience with them. Together we salute the athletes who have worked all their lives for this moment and celebrate the spirit of the 1998 Olympic