First lady Jill Biden wears a face mask during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics.
First lady Jill Biden appeared at the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony on Friday, wearing a mask as she joined just a handful of world leaders at the stadium closed to the public over the COVID-19 pandemic.
Biden, 70, wore a blue mask to go along with her black-and-white polka dot dress and long pearl necklace as she represented the US in her first solo international trip as first lady.
President Biden’s wife was joined by the few world leaders who made the trip to Japan for the opening ceremony in a nearly empty National Stadium.
Others there included French President Emmanuel Macron — whose country will host the 2024 Paris Olympics — as well Japan’s Emperor Naruhito.
Despite featuring the usual fireworks and dazzling displays of choreography, the near-empty stadium made the ceremony a muted affair — one met with protesters complaining that it could prove to be a superspreader event with so many athletes traveling from around the world.
Organizers held a moment of silence for those who had died of COVID — with the shouts of the protesters outside clearly audible as the music paused, the Associated Press noted.
Biden had arrived in Tokyo on Thursday, with a busy schedule set for the roughly 48 hours she planned to spend in Japan’s capital.
She started with dinner Thursday night with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and his wife, Mariko Suga, with whom she attended an incense workshop Friday before the opening ceremony, People magazine said.
“For Japan, our only true ally is America,” Suga reportedly said ahead of the meeting. “I am incredibly pleased to have the first lady come to Japan and want to welcome her warmly.”
At 11:30 a.m. Tokyo time, she held a virtual get-together with members of Team USA, praising their “years of work, the drive and faith that have kept you going” on getting them to the games.
“Becoming an Olympian is a rare accomplishment in a normal time. But you did it during a global pandemic,” she told them in the Zoom call, according to the Independent.
A few hours later, she met Emperor Naruhito at the Imperial Palace, waving to waiting press photographers as she arrived in the same outfit she would later wear to the opening ceremony.
She was one of 11 guests, with others including the presidents of Armenia, France, Kosovo and Poland and also Prince Albert of Monaco, People noted.
On Saturday, the first lady is due to host a US-vs.-Mexico softball watch party at the US Embassy for staff and their families, cheering on other athletes in several other events before leaving Tokyo.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Bidens felt it was important that the delegation to the Olympic Games be led “at the highest level.”