First lady Jill Biden will travel to Japan for the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo, the White House said Tuesday.
President Biden in June said his wife was eyeing the trip, but officials hadn’t confirmed the July 23 visit as it examined the COVID-19 situation.
The Office of the First Lady said it would release more details soon.
It is common for world leaders and dignitaries to attend the Olympic ceremonies as a symbol of national pride and global camaraderie. Preparations for the games in Japan have been anything but typical, however, after a yearlong delay and fears the event could spread the coronavirus.
Though Mrs. Biden will make this trip, congressional lawmakers are calling for a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Games in Beijing in February given the communist government’s oppression in Xinjiang and Hong Kong and threats against Taiwan.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach might have been thinking ahead as he offered assurances Tuesday to the “Chinese people,” only to quickly correct himself with “Japanese people.”
Mr. Bach said Tokyo is the best-ever prepared city for the Olympic games” as it puts the final pieces in place for the events from July 23 to Aug. 8.
“The Japanese people can have confidence in all the efforts we are undertaking to make these games for them secure and safe, with all the intensive, most strict COVID countermeasures, with the great vaccination program we’ve been undertaking worldwide,” Mr. Bach told Seiko Hashimoto, head of the organizing committee. “We are sitting in one boat and we are rowing together with full force in the same direction.”
Organizers are trying to lift spirits 10 days before kickoff.
A pandemic state of emergency in Tokyo and other parts of Japan forced the committees to ban spectators from venues, capping a series of setbacks for the showcase that was delayed for one year.
The IOC said the majority of the 11,000 athletes will be staying at the Olympic Village along the Harumi waterfront in Tokyo.
Organizers estimate that 85% of village residents will be vaccinated against COVID-19. They must wear masks, sanitize their hands and maintain physical distancing. They’ll also face regular testing and restrictions on their movements around the area.
“After all this additional stress during the pandemic, finally they can shine on the Olympic stage,” Mr. Bach said. “And I hope that they will, under these circumstances nevertheless, enjoy it to the fullest.”