WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) – President Joe Biden on Wednesday lauded Team USA for bringing a little unity to a pandemic-weary nation as they hosted a White House ceremony with nearly 600 athletes from this year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing and organized the coronavirus-delayed Summer Games. In Tokyo in 2021.
Among the athletes at the South Lawn event were swimmer and seven-time gold medalist Katie Ledecky, renowned bobsledder Elena Meyers Taylor and ice dancer Zachary Donahue, as well as competitors from the previous two Paralympic Games.
Biden said Team USA athletes won about 260 medals in Beijing and Tokyo. Equally impressive as their performance, Biden suggested, was the athletes’ ability to unite Americans during a period marked by the unrelenting coronavirus pandemic and deep partisanship after the 2020 election.
“You represent the soul of America,” Biden told the athletes. “It has been a very divided nation… but you brought us together. No matter the division, when we see you competing, we find a common pride in those three letters: USA.”
The 2020 Tokyo Games were delayed by a year due to COVID-19 and last summer without mass spectators. First Lady Jill Biden leads the US delegation to Japan. At the Beijing Olympics last winter, largely held without spectators, the United States staged a diplomatic boycott against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang over China’s human rights abuses.
Jill Biden, in her remarks on Wednesday, lauded athletes for persisting in challenging conditions, saying Americans are “grateful for the gifts” they have given the nation in difficult times.
“Now I know these games may not be exactly what you once imagined stadiums full of people shouting with and all your loved ones,” she said. “Olympian or Paralympian is a rare feat in a normal time, but you did it during a global pandemic. You are forever one of the most distinguished, most famous athletes in this world.”