First lady Jill BidenJill BidenFirst Lady visits schools to discuss COVID-19 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Schumer: Dem unity will happen eventually; Newsom prevails The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Biden travels west as Washington troubles mount MORE on Friday led the U.S. delegation to the opening ceremony in Tokyo to kick off a highly anticipated and unique Olympics.
It is Biden’s first solo international trip as first lady. Biden was spotted in the audience of the opening ceremony, wearing a black mask.
The opening ceremony paid homage to the athletes who trained in isolation during the global pandemic, showing videos of athletes practicing at home. It also honored those who have died from COVID-19 around the world.
Biden penned an open letter in NBC News to the Team USA Olympic athletes ahead of the opening ceremony, calling them “forever one of the most elite, most celebrated and most accomplished athletes in the world.”
She said the entire nation is cheering for them and that Team USA has united Americans beyond cities, states, backgrounds, jobs or political parties.
“You bring us together in a way that little else can. You remind us that with dedication, hard work, courage and teamwork, incredible things are possible,” she said.
Biden met virtually with Team USA before the opening ceremony over Zoom from the ambassador’s residence in Tokyo.
“I want to thank each person who helped you be here today. Now those years of work, the drive and faith that have kept you going, have led you here. Congratulations. Becoming an Olympian is a rare accomplishment in a normal time. But you did it during a global pandemic,” she said, wearing a USA jacket over her dress.
The Tokyo Olympics, which were initially postponed last year to 2021 as the coronavirus spread around the globe, has banned spectators at most of the venues and is occurring during a new COVID-19 state of emergency in Tokyo.
“In these moments we are more than our cities or states or backgrounds. We are more than our jobs or are political parties. We are Team USA,” Biden said.
She spoke virtually with flagbearers Eddy Alvarez, a baseball player and a short track speed skater, and Sue Bird, a basketball player.
“You are one amazing woman,” Biden said to Bird.
She also spoke to Allison Schmitt, a four-time Olympic swimmer and mental health advocate.
“I think it’s an even bigger honor that you’re not just FLOTUS, but you’re a Dr. Jill BidenJill BidenFirst Lady visits schools to discuss COVID-19 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Schumer: Dem unity will happen eventually; Newsom prevails The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Biden travels west as Washington troubles mount MORE,” Schmitt said. Biden commended Schmitt’s mental health work.
“It was emotional,” she told reporters after.
Ahead of the opening ceremony, she attended a meet-and-greet at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo with Japanese Emperor Naruhito and other heads of state and heads of delegations, including French President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Rocky US alliances as Biden heads to UN assembly Five things to watch as Biden heads to the UN France began doubting Australian submarine deal in June: report MORE, Monaco's Prince Albert II and Polish President Andrzej Duda.
Earlier on Friday in Tokyo, Biden went to Akasaka Palace to participate in an incense workshop with Mariko Suga, the wife of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
On Saturday, she’ll host a watch party for the U.S.-Mexico softball game with foreign service officers at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo before leaving the Games.