Jill Biden congratulates Team USA’s Olympic athletes for their ‘rare accomplishment’ during pandemic

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Jill Biden met with prime minister Yoshihide Suga and his wife Mariko Suga on Thursday evening (AFP/Getty)
Jill Biden met with prime minister Yoshihide Suga and his wife Mariko Suga on Thursday evening (AFP/Getty)

US first lady Jill Biden has congratulated Team USA ahead of the Olympics opening ceremony on Friday night, commending the athletes for achieving such “a rare accomplishment” during a global pandemic.

Dr Biden is leading the US’s diplomatic delegation to the Tokyo Olympics after arriving in Japan on Thursday afternoon.

Speaking over Zoom on Friday from the US ambassador’s residence in Tokyo, Ms Biden said: “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.

“For most of you, the journey to Tokyo began long, long ago. It likely started at a young age. The first time you picked up a ball or jumped in the water. The first ride that made you feel really free. Or when the backflip you thought was impossible suddenly wasn’t.

“You’ve given up so much to be here. You’ve sacrificed time with friends and pushed yourself harder than you thought you could,” the first lady said.

She noted that the athletes’ journeys had been supported by “dedicated parents and siblings, grandparents and cousins, friends, classmates” as well as “the coaches that guided [them] along the way to Tokyo”.

The Olympics trip is the first lady’s first solo journey abroad, during which she plans to meet with Team USA athletes, US foreign service officers and Japanese Emperor Naruhito. She had dinner with prime minister Yoshihide Suga and his wife, Mariko Suga on Thursday evening.

Japan has pushed ahead with the Games despite domestic opposition to holding the momentous sporting event while the coronavirus pandemic rages on, with Tokyo in its fourth state of emergency. A poll in Asahi Shimbun newspaper published a month before the Games began found that just 30 per cent of people in Tokyo supported the Games while 58 per cent said they oppose holding them.

Although Mr Suga has repeatedly offered assurances that the Olympics will be “safe and secure,” 68 percent of Japanese people said they did not agree, the poll found.

The 2020 Olympics will not have spectators at venues in Tokyo, with organisers saying they had “no choice but to hold the Games in a limited way” due to the pandemic.

Of Japan’s 42 Olympic venues, 25 are located in Tokyo, with the rest in seven other prefectures. Three of these – Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama – are near Tokyo and will also not be hosting spectators.

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