Washington, D.C. (AP) — First lady Jill Biden will attend the opening ceremony of the summer Olympics in Tokyo, the White House announced Tuesday, even as the city has entered a new state of emergency over a rise in coronavirus cases.
Biden will attend the July 23 opening ceremony on her first solo trip abroad as first lady.
She is also expected to attend some sporting events, as well as hold official events in Alaska and Hawaii on the way to and from Japan.
The year’s Olympic competition, already postponed a year because of the pandemic, will be held without fans cheering from the stands after a state of emergency was declared in Tokyo.
A key U.S. ally, Japan has made remarkable progress in vaccinating its population against COVID-19, but the drive has lost momentum because of supply shortages.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last week that staff had been sent to Tokyo to assess the feasibility of Jill Biden’s visit. Psaki said the president still supported U.S. athletes traveling to Tokyo for the competition despite the rise in coronavirus cases. President Biden is not attending the Games.
“We’re well aware of the careful preparations, including the public health measures necessary to protect athletes, staff, and spectators, that the government and international committee has undertaken, which is why, as we said, we support the Games moving forward,” Psaki said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, said last week that he didn’t have any concerns about a trip to Tokyo by the first lady, who is 70 years old and fully vaccinated. He said the protocols to protect her health are “rather stringent” and that “the final choice of what she’d do, obviously, is up to her.”
She has decided to follow her predecessors who also led U.S. delegations to the Olympics.
Hillary Clinton traveled to the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Games and the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Laura Bush led the delegation to the Turin Olympics in 2006. She also accompanied President George W. Bush to Beijing for the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in China.
Michelle Obama led a delegation to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Jill Biden last attended the Olympics in 2010, when she and then-Vice President Joe Biden led the U.S. delegation to the Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada.