Why Is Ivanka Trump At The Olympics? The Closing Ceremony Has This Special Guest
As the Olympic Games wind down, President Donald Trump won't have made it to PyeongChang, but his daughter has. Ivanka Trump is at the Olympics to represent the U.S. in the closing ceremony. The event, held on Sunday, Feb. 25, will mark the end of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea.
"My daughter, Ivanka, just arrived in South Korea," tweeted President Trump on Friday morning. "We cannot have a better, or smarter, person representing our country."
Ivanka Trump arrived in South Korea in time to attend a dinner hosted by President Moon and his wife in the capital prior to the ceremony. Her arrival was broadcast on Korean news stations, The New York Times reports, and her three-day trip will be as much about the Olympics as about brokering a continued relationship with the South.
"Thank you President Moon and First Lady Kim for your warm hospitality and the very special dinner at the historic Blue House, marking the start of our visit to South Korea," Ivanka Trump tweeted Friday.
Ivanka Trump will be joined at the ceremony by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The two are receiving backlash for serving as the country's representatives on the world stage, largely due to the general controversy of this administration, making it the second round of public outcry after Pence drew ire for leading the U.S. delegation in the opening ceremony. (For historical context, in 2014, President Barack Obama named Billie Jean King and two skaters to lead the closing ceremony delegation at the Sochi Games.)
In addition to a dinner, Trump reportedly met with the South Korean President in a closed-door session after arriving, according to China Xinhua News.
Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence represented the country at the opening ceremony on Feb. 9, but they drew sharp criticism for staying seated during the Korean national anthem. There was a lot riding on Pence's appearance from a diplomatic standpoint then, and there's just as much riding on Trump's appearance at the closing ceremony on Sunday.
Tensions have been steadily rising between U.S. and the North, after the latter has ratcheted up its nuclear program and refused to back down. The North sent off numerous test launches in 2017, prompting escalating threats between Kim Jong-un and President Trump. The South has the burden of being the key intermediary in the tense standoff. Ivanka Trump, per a pool report, said she hopes to "reaffirm our bonds of friendship and partnership" during her South Korean visit. But she also stressed that she was looking for results on nuclear disarmament, seeking to "reaffirm our commitment to our maximum-pressure campaign to ensure that the Korean Peninsula is denuclearized."
How Ivanka Trump proceeds this weekend with her South Korean hosts will be a hot topic. But people will also be closely watching for any interaction between the First Daughter and Kim Yo-jung, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. She stole the spotlight during the opening ceremony with her appearance, taking a seat just a few feet from Pence. The two leaders, though, failed to acknowledge each other during the ceremony. Pence had been scheduled to meet with members of the Northern delegation, under Trump's conditions, but the North backed out at the 11th hour.
Currently, Ivanka Trump is not slated to meet with any North Korean officials, per The Times. Already, she's called for stricter sanctions on the North — and as fate would have it, her father is expected to announce that very thing on Friday.
And the closing ceremony is generally a unifying event, where athletes of all countries are honored as one. And despite calls for pressure on the North, Ivanka Trump has also been attempting to play the part of unifying diplomat.
"Team USA inspires us all — each athlete has a story; each story represents a dream — a dream of one day going to the Olympics," she tweeted on Feb. 20. "Through their talent, dedication, & incredible drive, they are making their dreams come true — and they remind us all of what we can achieve together.
The closing ceremony will be at 6 a.m. ET, and viewers can stream the event live (though per TIME, this airing won't have any commentary). The official NBC broadcast of the ceremony will happen at 8 p.m. ET Sunday. U.S. cross-country skier Jessie Diggins has been bestowed the honor of carrying the American flag.