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Obama in London: President and prime minister are no match for London school children

May 24, 2011|By Christi Parsons and Michael A. Memoli
(Paul Hackett, Reuters )

Reporting from London and Washington   — In a break from the pomp and ceremony of his state visit to the United Kingdom, President Obama joined Prime Minister David Cameron in a spirited game of table tennis at a local school Tuesday afternoon.

The leaders of the two governments in the so-called "special relationship" teamed up in a doubles match against two young students at the Globe Academy in Southwark, a math and performing arts school with a high proportion of low-income students.

At first the leaders had some trouble getting their strategy coordinated — both are lefties.

"Are we keeping score?" Obama asked at one point.

Obama had one off-the-table save which Cameron promptly blew by overshooting.

Then they figured out how to hit and then get out of the other's way, resulting in a couple of points and high-fives. But the youngsters were clearly winning.

Obama and Cameron also dropped by a classroom where two groups of students talked about projects. One had won a design contest with what they call "Dish Dash" — a carryout food box that folds out into a bowl or plate and then back again.

"Design winners, people," the president said, showing the boxes to the cameras.

Someone suggested that a visionary investor could pick up the design. Obama suggested none other than Donald Trump.

"I have some connection with him," he joked.

Earlier, the Obamas arrived at Downing Street, the prime minister's residence, for a brief meeting. The two leaders will consult at greater length on Wednesday and during this week's G-8 summit in France. Obama also met separately with the leader of the Labor Party.

The Obamas also toured Westminster Abbey, site of the royal wedding between Prince William and Catherine Middleton last month. He laid a wreath at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior.

"It is a great privilege to commemorate our common heritage and common sacrifice," Obama wrote in a guest book.

John Hall, the dean of Westminster, offered a prayer for the president and Queen Elizabeth II.

"Give them grace as the symbols of loyalty and unity for all their peoples, give to the members of their governments vision, understanding and integrity, give to the nations' legislatures and judiciaries wisdom and skill, imagination and energy, that all may live in peace and happiness, truth and prosperity," he said.

Hall later told the BBC that Obama greatly enjoyed his tour, and joked with members of the choir about his own singing voice.

The Obamas have now returned to Buckingham Palace where they will be honored by the queen at a state dinner.

They will spend the night at the palace before another day in London that includes a speech to the British Parliament.

cparsons@latimes.com

michael.memoli@latimes.com

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