Jill Biden Is Going to the Olympics in Her First Solo International Trip as First Lady

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Jill Biden is heading to the increasingly controversial Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday in her first solo international trip as first lady. Dr. Biden will land in Tokyo on Thursday after a stop in Alaska, where she’ll meet with military families and visit the Alaska Native Medical Center as part of President Joe Biden’s push for Americans to get vaccinated. President Biden will not be attending the games.

Despite rising COVID-19 cases in Tokyo and positive cases on Team USA—including women’s tennis player Coco Gauff and a member of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team—“the president and the first lady felt it was important to have the delegation lead at the highest level,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday. “She is looking forward to continuing her travels.”

While Tokyo will be the first no-spectators Olympics, Dr. Biden will be among the select dignitaries and VIPs in the stands at Olympic Stadium on Friday for the opening ceremonies, “following strict protocols and precautions” from the White House COVID team, the Japanese government, and the Olympics, according to her press secretary. After a dinner with Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga and his wife, Mariko Suga, on Thursday, Dr. Biden will also do a virtual meet and greet with members of Team USA on Friday and cheer on American athletes at a series of events on Saturday.

The Olympics could likely use a dose of Dr. Biden (herself a marathon runner) after a rash of demoralizing PR, from the International Swimming Federation’s exclusionary ban on swim caps for natural hair to a fine levied at the Norwegian women’s beach handball team for wearing shorts instead of bikini briefs and an all-out ban on protests and demonstrations at the Olympics during an ongoing movement for racial and social justice. A damning recent New York Times report contemplated a “rusty and corrupt” system behind the scenes of the sporting events. “In short, the Olympics are built on excess, tangled in geopolitics, rife with corruption and cheating,” it read. “Each Olympic cycle raises uncomfortable questions about sustainability, environmental damage, and human rights.” It’s worth noting that an all-powerful IOC president reigns over most decisions; there have only been 9 in 125 years, and all have been white men.

After Tokyo, Dr. Biden will cap off her five-day, solo Pacific tour with a stop in Honolulu, where she’ll visit a vaccination clinic at a local high school.

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