First Lady Jill Biden Attends Tokyo Opening Ceremony as She Leads U.S. Delegation

Biden will also attend several competitions in support of American athletes

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden joined the approximately 600 Team USA Olympians — and scores of coaches, support staff and press — as she led the American delegation at the start of the Tokyo Summer Olympics on Friday night.

A masked Biden, 70, attended the opening ceremony wearing a black-and-white polka dot dress and pearls.

The White House said earlier this month that Biden, 70, would represent the U.S. at the games in lieu of President Joe Biden.

In addition to appearing at the ceremony on Friday night (local time), Dr. Biden, who arrived in Tokyo on Thursday, had dinner with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and his wife, Mariko Suga, at Akasaka Palace and met with Emperor Naruhito at the Imperial Palace.

The first lady also met virtually with some U.S. Olympians, including basketball player Sue Bird and baseball player Eddy Alvarez, the flag-bearers for Team USA at the opening ceremony.

"I want to thank each person who helped you be here today," she said during the meeting with athletes. "Now those years of work, the drive and faith that have kept you going, have led you here. Congratulations."

Jill Biden
First Lady Jill Biden at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympic Games on Friday. Photo by Dylan Martinez - Pool/Getty Images
Jill Biden
First Lady Jill Biden at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympic Games on Friday. Photo by Dylan Martinez - Pool/Getty Images

She will host a watch party at the embassy in Tokyo for the U.S. vs. Mexico softball game and is expected to attend various events in support of American athletes, the White House says.

After Japan, she will fly to Honolulu before returning to Washington, D.C.

The first lady has frequently traveled since her husband took office in January and there is a history of administrations sending high-ranking members to the Olympics instead of presidents.

Then-Vice President Mike Pence attended the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea and Michelle Obama led the U.S. delegation at the London Games as first lady in 2012.

But the COVID-19 pandemic will shadow the Tokyo Games in a way unlike those previous competitions.

Jill Biden
First Lady Jill Biden (center, left) and French President Emmanuel Macron applaud Team USA and Team France when both appear one after the other during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympic Games on Friday. Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Organizers in Japan instituted strict preventative measures for all participants and media and essentially barred all spectators.

Nonetheless, some athletes and others in Tokyo for the Olympics have tested positive in the lead-up to the opening ceremony, underlining public health concerns even given the safety protocols.

The White House said this week that while they were monitoring the situation throughout, they remained committed to participation.

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"The government of Japan and the IOC have very strict protocols, and they are taking careful safety precautions to keep the athletes and the public safe," Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

"Our team will be following very strict safety and health protocols, limiting engagement with the public and keeping our footprint as small as possible," she said.

To learn more about all the Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, visit Watch the Tokyo Olympics beginning July 23 and the Tokyo Paralympics beginning Aug. 24 on NBC.

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