President Joe Biden smiles as he walks on the South Lawn of the White House after stepping off Marine One, Sunday, June 27, 2021, in Washington. | Patrick Semansky/AP Photo
Don’t expect to see President Joe Biden at the Tokyo Olympics this year.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki, at a briefing on Monday, said Biden wasn’t planning to attend the games when asked by a reporter about the invitation from the Japanese government.
“The president is not planning to attend the games. He will certainly be rooting for the athletes,” said Psaki, noting that the U.S. would send a customary delegation. “We will have a delegation from the United States as we have historically had, but we will continue to also convey the public health guidelines and guidance that we’ve been delivering out there about only essential travel.”
Public health experts have expressed concern over Japan hosting a potential superspreader event starting next month amid low Covid vaccination rates, tallied at about 9 percent of the country, according to the World Health Organization. The games were rescheduled from last summer because of the pandemic.
The delegation could be led by first lady Jill Biden, though plans are still being drafted.
Then-Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence led the U.S delegation to South Korea for the 2018 Winter Olympics, with President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump then assuming the helm for its closing ceremonies.
For the 2016 Summer Games, President Barack Obama skipped the opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, instead sending his secretary of State, John Kerry, to lead the U.S. delegation. For the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, the highest-ranking member from the Obama administration was Deputy Secretary of State William Burns. Two openly gay athletes, Billie Jean King and Caitlin Cahow, were also featured in the U.S. delegation, prominently sent over to a country with overt discrimination against gay citizens.