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Biden backs Tokyo Olympic Games

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WashingtonExaminer
WashingtonExaminer
 2021-06-13
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President Joe Biden offered a full-throated endorsement of next month's Summer Olympic Games during his sideline talks with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga at the G-7 summit in the United Kingdom.

"President Biden affirmed his support for the Tokyo Olympic Games moving forward with all public health measures necessary to protect athletes, staff and spectators," the White House said late Saturday.

Biden's backing is a boost for Suga as he and organizers grapple with criticism over their planning of the quadrennial sporting event amid the pandemic after it was delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

"President Biden expressed pride in the U.S. athletes who have trained for the Tokyo Games and will be competing in the best traditions of the Olympic spirit," according to a readout of their conversation.

The pair also discussed climate change, North Korea, China, and Taiwan during their conversation at the three-day G-7 meeting.

The White House previously seemed less enthusiastic about the Olympics as Japan struggled to vaccinate its population against COVID-19. Japan's major newspaper last month called on the government to cancel the event, and the U.S. State Department issued guidance recommending U.S. citizens not travel to the country.

Others have also expressed concern about the event's safety protocols. Roughly 10,000 Olympics volunteers quit, some of whom were concerned about Japan's latest COVID-19 surge.

The Biden administration has since softened its stance, however, stressing the travel advisory was not a ban on attending the Olympic Games.

"The travel advisory is [an] advisory. It's not a ban," White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on May 26. "We respected the decision to delay the Olympics, the games, last summer, and we understand the careful consideration that the Japanese government and the International Olympic Committee are weighing."

She added, "The government of Japan has stressed that the public health remains the central priority as they plan to host the games. Tokyo has assured us that they will keep in close contact with Washington as they — as their plans develop."

In response to the questions about whether the games should be canceled for a second time due to the pandemic, International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound said last month nixing the Olympics was "essentially off the table" because "the fact-based indications are that the bubble can be created and maintained."

Japan has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases since early March, with a seven-day average of 2,214 new cases per day as of last Wednesday, according to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker.

The Olympics are set to start in Tokyo on July 23.

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