WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Wednesday hailed Team USA for bringing some unity to a pandemic-weary nation as he hosted a celebration at the White House with about 600 Olympic Games athletes from winter of this year in Beijing and the Summer Games delayed by the coronavirus. in 2021 in Tokyo.
Athletes at the South Lawn ceremony included swimmer and seven-time gold medalist Katie Ledecky, famed bobsledder Elena Meyers Taylor and ice dancer Zachary Donahue, as well as competitors from the past two Paralympic Games.
Biden noted that Team USA athletes won some 260 medals in Beijing and Tokyo. Equally impressive as their performances, Biden suggested, was the athletes’ ability to unite Americans during a time marked by the relentless coronavirus pandemic and deepening partisanship after the 2020 election.
“You represent the very soul of America,” Biden told the athletes. “It’s a very divided nation…but you brought us together. No matter the divisions, when we see you compete, we feel a common pride in these three letters: USA.”
The Tokyo 2020 Games were delayed for a year due to COVID-19 and took place last summer, largely without spectators. First Lady Jill Biden led the US delegation to Japan. At the Beijing Olympics last winter, which was also held largely without spectators, the United States staged a diplomatic boycott over China’s human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.
Jill Biden, in her remarks on Wednesday, praised the athletes for their perseverance in difficult circumstances, saying Americans were “grateful for the gifts” they gave the country at a difficult time.
“Now I know these Games may not have been exactly as you imagined with stadiums full of people and all your loved ones screaming from the touchline,” she said. “An Olympian or a Paralympian is a rare accomplishment in normal times, but you did it during a global pandemic. You are forever one of the most elite and famous athletes in this world.
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