“Team Refugee” to compete at Rio Olympics
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“Team Refugee” to compete at Rio Olympics

High-caliber athletes including a Syrian swimmer, an Iranian taekwondo fighter and a Congolese judoka are among those who may be competing as part of a five to 10-member all-refugee squad at this year’s Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

On Wednesday the International Olympic Committee (IOC) approved the plan for a team of refugees to compete in Rio when the games commence on 5 August. As of yet, 43 refugee-athletes have been identified as possible team members.

IOC President Thomas Bach is quoted in an article by Agence France-Presse:

We have all been touched by the magnitude of this refugee crisis. By welcoming this team, we want to send a message of hope to all the refugees in the world.

The squad, officially dubbed the Team of Refugee Olympic Athletes (ROA) will be the final group to march into the Olympic Stadium before the Brazilian host team enters.

Since the team of refugee athletes will be made up of individuals originating in various countries, they will carry the Olympic emblem as their flag. The IOC will also provide the team with all necessary equipment and uniforms as well as cover their expenses.

The three aforementioned potential ROA team members are all women who fled their homelands in search of a better life.

Via CNN:

I cannot fight for my country. I will fight for the Olympics, I will fight for all the refugees in the world. Judo is my life. It helped me escape war, to take another path.

—Olympic hopeful Yolande Mabika

Three female Olympic candidates making history

  • Yursra Mardini — 17-year old Syrian swimmer who, along with her sister, jumped from her raft, bound from Turkey to Greece, and swam the remaining 20 occupants to safety on Lesbos. She is now based in Germany.
  • Raheleh Asemani — A taekwondo fighter who fled Iran and is currently a postal worker in Belgium.
  • Yolande Mabika — A judoka from the Democratic Republic of Congo who fled her home country three years ago and now lives in Brazil.

News of the formation of the ROA team comes as a bit of brightness in the otherwise tragic story of the ongoing Syrian conflict. The UN has called the conflict’s resulting refugee crisis the worst in “25 years”, while EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos referred to it as “the worst humanitarian crisis since the Second World War”.