"The president is not planning to attend the games. He will certainly be rooting for the athletes," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday

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President And Mrs Biden Return To The White House
From left: President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden walk on the Ellipse on May 23 in Washington, D.C.
| Credit: Tasos Katopodis/Getty

President Joe Biden will not travel to Tokyo for next month's Summer Olympics, but First Lady Dr. Jill Biden may go in his place.

"The president is not planning to attend the games. He will certainly be rooting for the athletes," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday.

Psaki added that "we will have a delegation from the United States as we have historically had, but we will continue to also convey the [pandemic] public health guidelines and guidance that we've been delivering out there about only essential travel."

Politico reported the first lady, 70, could lead the delegation for the competition in Tokyo, although the White House hasn't made an official announcement yet.

President Biden, 78, told reporters on Tuesday he was, in fact, gearing up for his wife to lead the group.

"We're trying to work that out now," he said. "That's the plan." 

Joe Biden, JILL BIDEN
From left: Joe and Jill Biden
| Credit: Paul Morigi/Getty Images

The president's absence from the upcoming games — though not unusual compared to past Olympics — will come as both global and Japanese officials have voiced concern over their safety amid the still-ongoing international spread of COVID-19.

Only about 12 percent of Japan's population has been vaccinated, according to a World Health Organization tracker.

While the competition and participating athletes and press are subject to intense restrictions, Japan has announced it will allow 10,000 domestic spectators.

The last president to embark on a foreign trip for the Olympics was former President George W. Bush in 2008, who attended the games in Beijing during his final months in office.

Former Presidents Ronald Raegan and Bill Clinton both attended the Olympic Games, but only those held in the U.S.

In the a president's place, the White House typically sends a delegation led by high-ranking administration members, such as the first lady or the secretary of state, who often travel along with former U.S. athletes.

There's precedent for first ladies to lead the U.S. Olympic delegation, as well.

In 2012, former First Lady Michelle Obama led the group for the London Games. And in 2018 at the South Korea Games, former Second Lady Karen Pence led the delegation alongside her husband, former Vice President Mike Pence.

The Olympics begin on July 23.