The Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympics and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have been getting a lot of negative press in the last few months. People have been urging the IOC to call off the Games, but the IOC has decided to let the Games go on. In less than 2 weeks, I will be in Rio ready to volunteer, meet people from all over the world, and watch athletes overcome the odds to proudly represent themselves and their countries.
In addition to the spectators, volunteers, staff, and athletes who are there to participate under their national flags, Rio 2016 will have a Refugee Olympic Team.
Ten refugee athletes who had to flee their home countries will compete under the Olympic flag. If you watch the Opening Ceremony, look for them marching under the Olympic flag right before Brazil at the end of the Parade of Nations.
Created as an Olympic response to the worldwide refugee crisis, the IOC formed this team by first asking National Olympic Committees (NOCs) around the world to identify refugee athletes with the potentials to compete at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Forty-three candidates were identified, and these ten athletes were selected.
- Rami Anis (M): Country of origin – Syria; sport – swimming; host NOC – Belgium
- Yiech Pur Biel (M): Country of origin – South Sudan; sport – athletics, 800m; host NOC – Kenya
- James Nyang Chiengjiek (M): Country of origin – South Sudan; sport – athletics, 400m; host NOC – Kenya
- Yonas Kinde (M): Country of origin – Ethiopia; sport – athletics, marathon; host NOC – Luxembourg
- Anjelina Nada Lohalith (F): Country of origin – South Sudan; sport – athletics, 1500m; host NOC – Kenya
- Rose Nathike Lokonyen (F): Country of origin – South Sudan; sport – athletics, 800m; host NOC – Kenya
- Paulo Amotun Lokoro (M): Country of origin – South Sudan; sport – athletics, 1500m; host NOC – Kenya
- Yolande Bukasa Mabika (F): Country of origin – Democratic Republic of the Congo; sport – judo, -70kg; host NOC – Brazil
- Yusra Mardini (F): Country of origin – Syria; sport – swimming; host NOC – Germany
- Popole Misenga (M): Country of origin – Democratic Republic of the Congo; sport – judo, -90k; host NOC – Brazil
The video above doesn’t work on this blog post, but if you click the play arrow and then you click “Watch on YouTube,” you’ll be able to watch it on YouTube.
The IOC’s Olympic Solidarity program will provide funding for these athletes to cover their preparation, travel, and other expenses for the Olympic Games. The IOC will continue to support the refugee athletes after the Olympics.
Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee, said, “These refugees have no home, no team, no flag, no national anthem. We will offer them a home in the Olympic Village together with all the athletes of the word. The Olympic anthem will be played in their honor and the Olympic flag will lead them into the Olympic Stadium. This will be a symbol of hope for all the refugees in our world and will make the world better aware of the magnitude of this crisis. It is also a signal to the international community that refugees are our fellow human beings and are an enrichment to society. These refugee athletes will show the world that despite the unimaginable tragedies that they have faced, anyone can contribute to society through their talent, skills and strength of the human spirit.”
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