Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

Vice President Biden, Chicago's Susan Axelrod at Special Olympics games.


From: Popkey, Dan - Boise
To: Alexander, Elizabeth; Tomasini, AnnMarie
Cc: Boise-postonline
Sent: Thu Feb 12 17:33:38 2009
Subject: POOL #1


Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Boise, Idaho, Thursday, to attend the Special Olympics World Winter Games. Air Force 2 touched down at 1:50 p.m. following a nearly four-hour delay due to high winds on the Eastern Seaboard.

Biden was greeted on the tarmac at Boise airport by Gov. Butch Otter, Lt. Gov. Brad Little, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, Attorney Lawrence Wasden, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna and Boise Mayor Dave Bieter.

Biden, who seemed to have been briefed about the governor's recent surgery on his right shoulder, immediately reached to shake Otter's left hand.

Bieter, the lone Democrat among the greeters, had the longest conversation with Biden, which lasted about 60 seconds before Biden waved to reporters and climbed in a black limousine, which departed at 2:03 p.m. Biden then headed to Qwest Arena downtown to attend figure skating at the Special Olympics World Winter Games.

When Biden entered the arena at 2:25 p.m., he was applauded and spent several minutes shaking hands. Before joining the crowd, he had donned a red parka and a Special Olympics blue-and-white scarf. He was seated with athlete Tim McConnell, who was draped with medals, and McConnell's mother, Daphne. McConnell is a double-gold-medal speed skater from Enola, Pennsylvania. Also with Biden were Olympic figure skating medalist Michelle Kwan and Tim Shriver, board chairman of the Special Olympics and a son Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

Biden watched five pairs in Divison 2 pairs freestyle figure-skating perform, three from Chinese Taipei,one from Mexico and one from Germany. The teams were: Chang/Sung, Hung/Lin and Pan/Wang of Taipei; Monreal/Visiconty of Mexico and Werner/Ziebe of Germany.

Biden then awarded medals to the pairs, while Kwan handed them bouquets. Gold medalists were Werner/Ziebe; silver medal pair was Pan/Wang; bronze was Monreal/Visiconty. Fourth place went to Hung/Ling and fifth of Chang/Sung.

Earlier, on the tarmac, Biden introduced Idaho schools chief Luna to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and the pair chatted briefly. Lt. Gov. Little, wearing a blue-and-white scarf that's been a trademark of the Winter Games, removed it from his shoulders and presented it to Susan Axelrod, president of Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy and the wife of Obama senior advisor David Axelrod.

Members of Biden's delegation included Lisa Brown (red coat), Alexrod (red wrap), Tim Shriver, Kareem Dale (short black trench coat), and Chester Finn, president of the board of Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered and a special assistant in the New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (with cane for sight-impaired).

After leaving the arena, Biden was to head for a "Healthy Athletes" event at Boise State University, a program that teaches people with intellectual disabilities healthy eating and living habits. Volunteers have been providing medical, dental, vision and podiatry screenings for athletes and non-athletes during the Games.

One-third of Special Olympics athletes cannot see well and need new or different eyeglasses; six percent have serious untreated eye diseases; more than 30 percent fail hearing tests, six times the rate of the general population; and 35 percent have obvious tooth decay in the molars, up to 50 percent have obvious gum infections and 15 percent require urgent care. A woman dressed as the Tooth Fairy has been helping convey the need for proper tooth-brushing techniques.

About 2,500 athletes from nearly 100 countries have been in Boise, McCall and Sun Valley, Idaho for the games.

U.S. Rep. Walt Minnick, D-Idaho, was to have been on Air Force 2, but decided to remain in Washington to vote on the stimulus package. Minnick was one of 11 House Democrats to oppose the original House bill. A freshman and the lone Democrat in the Idaho delegation, Minnick joined his GOP colleagues in opposing the plan. He proposed a smaller stimulus bill of his own.

Minnick's office released this statement: "I very much regret not being able to attend the World Special Olympics Winter Games today with Vice President Biden," Idaho Congressman Walt Minnick said. "My duties in the U.S. House of Representatives kept me in Washington, D.C., but I'm glad to know the visit is shining even more positive attention on such a fantastic event. The Games have been great for Idaho, and I am pleased that Vice President Biden will today get to see great performances which are representative of so many wonderful athletes, coaches and volunteers."


Thank you for your noteworthy article on these International Special Olympics.

It's more coverage, than any of the TV or national media outlets provided for the entire event. Apparently, only congress and law breakers like Michael Phelps and A-Rod rate attention.


I was there to watch the figure skating all morning before Biden got there. The higher level skaters were truly amazing, doing triples. All of the skaters were great, don't get me wrong. So glad to see this article. Just a note, we were more excited about Michelle Kwan being there than Joe Biden!! You should've heard the applause difference. When Scott Hamilton told us Biden was going to be late, there was a good amount of applause.

Thank you for a great article on the this truly "Special" event. We were delighted that VP Joe Biden was able to attend, even with his new role and extremely busy schedule. Joe has been a big advocate of the Special Olympics for many many years, and the fact that he made sure he brought the President's message as well as watch events meant a lot to him. I found slide shows on other websites that were fun to see. The Olympians were obviously talented and enjoy the competition. The vice president wore his scarf the whole time, as in the past embraced and interacted with participants, and admitted he was the one who was honored to be there. Thank you again.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on February 12, 2009 4:49 PM.

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