First lady Jill Biden will travel to Japan for the opening ceremony of the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics on July 23, the White House said Tuesday.
The announcement comes about a week after organizers and the IOC banned all spectators from watching events in the Tokyo area, with venues in other parts of Japan following suit, due to a state of emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic. Fans coming from abroad have been banned for months.
This will be Biden’s second time leading an Olympic delegation, according to NBC News. She and husband Joe Biden led the delegation to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, when Biden was vice president.
The first lady will be attending a Games that has essentially been reduced to a made-for-TV event. More than 15,000 athletes, and thousands more coaches and staff, will converge on Tokyo with severe restrictions on their movements. People in Japan will be encouraged to watch the Games at home.
Under a fresh state of emergency that runs through Aug. 22, the Japanese government requests that bars, restaurants and venues that serve alcohol close in order to stop people from partying.
Depending on how the question is phrased, 50% to 80% of people in Japan oppose holding the Olympics, according to The Associated Press. Some small protests have broken out in Tokyo.
Japan has attributed about 15,000 deaths to COVID-19. Just 16.8% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the AP.
The first lady’s office said it would release additional details of Biden’s travel plans later.