Olympics: Refugee Team to compete in Tokyo

29 athletes, 19 men and 10 women (pictured), will make up the Refugee Olympic Team that will compete in Tokyo under the flag of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). 

It is “a message of hope” to the world, said IOC President Thomas Bach, and a way to “raise awareness through sport of the plight of over 80 million displaced people worldwide”.

The athletes were selected from a group of 56 young men and women from 13 different countries, who could train thanks to the scholarships provided under the “Olympic Solidarity” programme in 12 different disciplines: athletics, badminton, boxing, canoeing, cycling, judo, karate, taekwondo, shooting, swimming, weightlifting, and wrestling.

Recently addressing the athletes in a virtual ceremony, the IOC President said: “Congratulations to all of you,” said Mr Bach. “I speak on behalf of the entire Olympic Movement when I say that we cannot wait to meet you in person and to see you compete. When you come together in Tokyo on July 23, you will send a powerful message of solidarity, resilience and hope to the world. You are an integral part of our Olympic community, and we welcome you with open arms.”

The Refugee Team will be the second, after Greece, to enter the stadium at the opening ceremony in Tokyo. Ten of these athletes were already part of the team that, for the first time, participated in the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016. After Rio, the Olympic Refugee Foundation (ORF) was established to support initiatives for young people worldwide.

The initiative is also supported by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). UNHCR High Commissioner Filippo Grandi congratulated the athletes, saying: “I am thrilled to congratulate each of the athletes who have been named in the Refugee Olympic Team Tokyo 2020. They are an exceptional group of people who inspire the world. UNHCR is incredibly proud to support them as they compete at the Tokyo Olympic Games. Surviving war, persecution and the anxiety of exile already makes them extraordinary people, but the fact that they now also excel as athletes on the world stage fills me with immense pride. It shows what is possible when refugees are given the opportunity to make the most of their potential.”

Like all teams at the Olympic Games, the IOC Refugee Olympic Team will have its own entourage to meet all the required technical needs of the athletes. Olympian and former marathon world record-holder Tegla Loroupe will be the team’s Chef de Mission, reprising her role from the Olympic Games Rio 2016, while Stephen Pattison from UNHCR and Olivier Niamkey from the IOC will act as the Deputy Chefs de Mission. They will lead a delegation of 20 coaches and 15 team officials, while Olympic Solidarity will cover travel and all other participation expenses for the team.

The first-ever IOC Refugee Olympic Team, consisting of 10 athletes, competed at the Olympic Games Rio 2016. The athletes captured the attention of the world through their inspirational journeys and performances. Six of those athletes – swimmer Yusra Mardini, judoka Popole Misenga and runners Anjelina Nadai Lohalith (1,500m), James Nyang Chiengjiek (800m), Paulo Amotun Lokoro (1,500m) and Rose Nathike Likonyen (800m) – will be part of the team again in Tokyo.

Following the success of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team Rio 2016, the IOC decided in 2018 that there would be an IOC Refugee Olympic Team Tokyo 2020.

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