NEXT STOP TOKYO: U.S. First Lady Jill Biden has been covering some tracks in recent weeks, crisscrossing the country visiting vaccination sites and trying to encourage the unvaccinated to get inoculated. Now she is planning an international jaunt to attend the Opening Ceremony of the 2021 Summer Games in Tokyo later this month.
The first lady will be on hand for the kickoff when Team USA and other Olympic national teams enter Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on July 23. The Americans will make their Olympic debuts wearing Opening Ceremony uniforms from Ralph Lauren, a designer whose clothes Biden has worn on occasion. Sports fans in the U.S. will be able to catch a glimpse of Biden and the opening festivities via NBC’s live coverage starting at 7 a.m., which will be evening local time in Japan.
Anticipation runs parallel to determination for many Olympic hopefuls and the 16-month postponement of the Summer Games tested their mettle even more. Competing in largely empty stadiums and sports arenas will be another test of their competitive spirits. The White House has not yet shared specifics about the length of Biden’s trip or other details.
Millions of would-be Olympic ticket holders and Olympic athletes’ relatives have found themselves shut out of the 17-day competition, due to crowd capacity restrictions that have been tightened in line with the coronavirus crisis. Nearly 4.5 million tickets had reportedly been sold before international visitors were banned from attending and then domestic ones were, too. Even International Olympic Committee representatives, who are in Tokyo dealing with preparations are said to be dealing with changing guidelines day-by-day.
There are a lot of medals up for grabs at the Tokyo Games with 339 events on the docket in 33 sports. While American multimedal winner Simone Biles is sure to attract millions of viewers to the gymnastics competition, 11 Team USA teenage Olympians like Katie Grimes may rev up interest in another much-watched sport — swimming.
Such traditional Olympic sports are always crowd pleasers in terms of ratings, but more daring ones like skateboarding, surfing and sport climbing — which are being ushered in for the first time at the upcoming Games — are sure to help reel in the ever sought-after younger audience. At 70, Biden is known to be active in her off-hours pursuits as well as her work in teaching college students and making official appearances as first lady. During a satellite appearance while in Cornwall for the G7, Biden spoke of her interest in surfing.
Patriotism and nationalism are undercurrents of the Olympics. Business is omnipresent, too. Sixty-plus Japanese companies collectively paid more than $3 billion to sponsor the Summer Games and then another $200 million to extend the contracts after the Olympics were postponed last year. Insurance and partnerships are other added expenses for some.