This year, the Olympics are making history by allowing a team of refugee olympic athletes (ROA) to compete in the festivities.
According to Al Jazeera, the International Olympic Committee decided to include the team because they will be seen as a “symbol of hope.” There will be ten people on the team that is set to compete in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics this year.
“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 world,” stated Thomas Bach, president of the IOC, during a board meeting for Olympic planning.
“They all fled violence and persecution in their countries and sought refuge in places as wide-ranging as Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Kenya and Brazil,” added a representative from the United Nations High Committee for Refugees (UNHCR).
“The initiative to send a refugee team to the Rio Games is unprecedented and sends a strong message of support and hope for refugees worldwide.”
Two of the team members are swimmers from Syria, six are runners from Ethiopia and the South Sudan, and two are judokas from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The team will have all expenses paid by the IOC, and will use the Olympic flag as their official banner. They will enter the stadium following Brazil, this year’s hosts.
“We are very inspired by the Refugee Olympic Athletes team – having had their sporting careers interrupted, these high-level refugee athletes will finally have the chance to pursue their dreams,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told Al Jazeera.
“Their participation in the Olympics is a tribute to the courage and perseverance of all refugees in overcoming adversity and building a better future for themselves and their families. UNHCR stands with them and with all refugees.”