Jill Biden lands in Japan for Olympic opening ceremony

Olympics

TOKYO (NewsNation Now) — First Lady Jill Biden arrived in Tokyo Thursday to lead an official delegation to the Olympic Games, sending a message of support to a key Asian ally despite concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Biden, wearing a red dress and face mask, arrived at Yokota Air Base in Japan and was greeted by Japan’s foreign minister and U.S. and Japanese base officials.

Olympic and Japanese officials have forged ahead with the sports spectacle despite public opposition in the country to hosting huge numbers of athletes, staff and media – more than 11,000 in the athletes’ village alone — dozens of whom have already tested positive.

But President Joe Biden sees the pandemic-postponed Games as a critical moment for showing support for a longtime ally and trading partner who he hopes will support U.S. efforts to check China’s rise, aides said.

Biden had dinner with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and his wife, Mariko Suga, Thursday evening.

Suga is meeting with only about 15 world leaders on the sidelines of the Olympics, compared to initial expectations of as many as 120. President Biden hosted Suga at the White House in April.

The Olympics trip is the first lady’s first solo trip abroad and will include three days on the ground in Japan.

She plans to attend the opening ceremony on Friday, as well as meet with Team USA athletes, U.S. foreign service officers and Japanese Emperor Naruhito. Later that day, she will attend the opening ceremony for the Games.

The last time Biden attended the games was in 2010 when she and her husband led the U.S. delegation to the Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada.

Previous first ladies also have represented the U.S. at the Olympic Games.

Hillary Clinton traveled to the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Games and the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Laura Bush led the delegation to 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.

The Olympics, already delayed a year because of COVID-19, are due to run from July 23 to Aug. 8. Olympic village, the accommodation center built for athletes, officially opened Tuesday.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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