by Emma Sherry
The Rio 2016 Olympic Games will see the inclusion of the first Team of Refugee Olympic Athletes. In March this year, the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) created a team of Refugee Olympic Athletes. This team will be treated at the Olympic Games like all the other teams of the 206 National Olympic Committees (NOCs).
Athletes competing at the Olympic Games (both summer and winter events) must be affiliated with their National Olympic Committee (NOC). However there have been times in recent history where nations have been dissolved or new nations have emerged due to political transition, or international sanctions have left athletes without a formal nation or NOC. These athletes have traditionally competed as Independent Olympic Athletes.
Team Refugee will be treated like any other national team, with the same rights and responsibilities. For all official representations of the team, including any medal ceremonies, the Olympic flag will be raised and the Olympic Anthem will be played and the team marches behind the Olympic flag before host team Brazil at the Opening Ceremony.
Olympic Solidarity is covering all travel and other participation expenses for the team and will continue to support the athletes of the team after the Olympic Games.
Ten athletes have been selected by the International Olympic Committee to participate in the 2016 Olympic Games Team Refugee, with each being hosted by another National Olympic Committee (NOC). The athletes are:
- Rami Anis (M): Country of origin – Syria; sport – swimming
- Yiech Pur Biel (M): Country of origin – South Sudan; sport – athletics, 800m
- James Nyang Chiengjiek (M): Country of origin – South Sudan; sport – athletics, 400m
- Yonas Kinde (M): Country of origin – Ethiopia; sport – athletics, marathon
- Anjelina Nada Lohalith (F): Country of origin – South Sudan; sport – athletics, 1500m
- Rose Nathike Lokonyen (F): Country of origin – South Sudan; sport – athletics, 800m
- Paulo Amotun Lokoro (M): Country of origin – South Sudan; sport – athletics, 1500m
- Yolande Bukasa Mabika (F): Country of origin – Democratic Republic of the Congo; sport – judo, -70kg
- Yusra Mardini (F): Country of origin – Syria; sport – swimming
- Popole Misenga (M): Country of origin – Democratic Republic of the Congo; sport – judo, -90kg
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) stated that “their athletic prowess and resilience is a tribute to the courage and perseverance of all refugees – at a time when the number of people displaced by violence and persecution is at the highest level since the Second World War”. Indeed, growing support for Team Refugee across the globe is being realised via awareness campaigns and messages of support.
As the world around us witnesses the growing displacement of entire communities due to war, conflict and the growing spread of terrorism; it is heartening to know that these elite athletes, including those without a nation, have the opportunity to take their place at the Olympic Games.
Want to show your support for the Refugee Olympic Team? Find out how here.