America's First Lady Jill Biden will lead the United States delegation to the Olympic Games for the second time. She will, however, do so without her husband, President Joe Biden, during the Tokyo Games. When Joe Biden was vice president, the couple headed the delegation to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.
"First Lady Jill Biden will travel to the Opening Ceremony of the 2021 Olympic Summer Games," the White House said in a statement.
In the aftermath of a state of emergency imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tokyo Games, which will commence on July 23 after a year-long postponement, will have no fans in attendance.
Japan, a major US ally, has made significant headway in vaccinating its citizens against COVID-19, but the campaign has stalled due to supply constraints. Jill Biden had her vaccine shot in January before her husband was elected president.
Last month, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki indicated the president would not go to the Olympics, but would instead send a delegation, as is customary.
“We’re well aware of the careful preparations, including the public health measures necessary to protect athletes, staff, and spectators, that the government and international committee has undertaken, which is why, as we said, we support the Games moving forward,” Psaki said.
When President George W. Bush headed to China for the Beijing Olympics in 2008, he became the first American president to do so. It has not happened since.
President Barack Obama did not attend the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, 2012 in London, 2014 in Sochi, Russia, or 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.
Delegations were dispatched, and first lady Michelle Obama headed the group to the London Olympics. The Bidens headed the US delegation to Canada in 2010.
President Donald Trump dispatched a delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, led by Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen Pence. Ivanka Trump, the first daughter, led the US delegation for the closing ceremony.
Previous first ladies also have led the American delegations at the Olympic Games. Hillary Clinton attended the Lillehammer Winter Games in 1994 and the Atlanta Winter Games in 1996.
In 2006, Laura Bush headed the United States delegation to the Turin Olympics. She also joined President George W. Bush in Beijing for the 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony.