First Lady Dr. Jill Biden will attend the opening ceremony at the Summer Games and will lead the United States delegation in Tokyo.

Jill Biden
Credit: Jeff Hahne/Getty

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden is headed to the Tokyo Olympics and will lead the United States delegation for the opening ceremony, the White House said Tuesday. 

Last month, the White House announced that President Joe Biden would not be traveling to Tokyo for the Olympic Games — which is not uncommon compared to past Olympics — and noted a "plan" for the first lady to attend, which is now set in stone.

"The president is not planning to attend the games. He will certainly be rooting for the athletes," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at the time.

Psaki added that "we will have a delegation from the United States as we have historically had, but we will continue to also convey the [pandemic] public health guidelines and guidance that we've been delivering out there about only essential travel."

There's precedent for first ladies to lead the U.S. Olympic delegation, with former First Lady Michelle Obama helming the group for the London Games in 2012. And in 2018, at the South Korea Games, former Second Lady Karen Pence led the delegation alongside her husband, former Vice President Mike Pence.

During the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010, the Bidens also led the U.S. delegation together as vice president and second lady. 

The president's absence from the upcoming Games comes as both global and Japanese officials voiced concerns over their safety amid the still-ongoing international spread of COVID-19. Earlier this month, fans were barred from attending the Tokyo Olympics as a new state of emergency was declared in the Japanese capital where cases are on the rise. 

"The number of infected cases in the area including Tokyo has been increasing since the end of last month," Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said last week, the Associated Press reported. "Considering the impact of variants, we need to enhance countermeasures so that the infection will not spread nationwide."

According to a New York Times database, only 18 percent of Japan's population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Tuesday. The country averages over 13 deaths from the virus every day.

To learn more about all the Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, visit Watch the Tokyo Olympics beginning July 23rd and the Tokyo Paralympics beginning August 24th on NBC.

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