Simone Biles and the USA Gymnastics Team Are Tokyo-bound — and They Got the Best Airport Sendoff
Simone Biles and the USA Gymnastics team headed to Tokyo this week, one step closer to competing in the Olympic Games.
The team was waived off as they boarded a United Airlines flight from San Francisco on Wednesday, walking through a crowd of flag-waving supporters while ground crew held up supportive signs, the airline shared with Travel + Leisure.
"Can't talk, we're busy flying Team USA to Tokyo so Simone can make history," one sign read, with another adding: "Again."
Once onboard, Biles was given a Goldie blanket emblazoned with her G.O.A.T. emblem (to signify that she really is the Greatest of all Time) along with United's Team USA-themed amenity kit. Biles and fellow teammate MyKayla Skinner then took some time hanging out in the cockpit before they were off.
"I'm actually really excited, it feels surreal," Biles said, according to United, as she headed to Tokyo. "It's crazy, but I'm ready — especially after the extra-long year of training, it's been worth it, so I'm ready."
However, the feeling is bittersweet as the athletes' families are not allowed to attend the games this year as spectators are not allowed due to the current state of emergency in Tokyo.
"not me crying on the plane because I'll miss my family & friends," Biles tweeted.
Team USA aren't the only athletes to arrive in Tokyo ahead of the games. Athletes from countries like Italy and the UK started to arrive in the city as the Olympic Village opened, CNN reported.
But several cases of COVID-19 have cropped up, including a Ugandan athlete and coach, and an Israeli athlete, according to Reuters. Additionally, several athletes are isolating after being in close contact with a positive case, including 21 members of the South African rugby team.
The delayed games are set to start July 23, even as Tokyo is currently under a state of emergency due to a recent surge in COVID-19 cases. As a result, fans will no longer be allowed to attend the games.
Beyond the athletes themselves, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden will head to Tokyo to lead the United States delegation for the opening ceremony.
Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.