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Refugee Team to Contest Rio Olympics

The countdown is on for the 31st Summer Olympiad, which gets underway on August 5th in Rio De Janeiro. The Summer Games will last until August 21st and will see 306 events across 28 sports, including Rugby 7’s, which appears for the first time, and Golf, which hasn’t been seen at the Summer Olympics since 1904.

206 countries will be represented at the Games and, for the first time, a team made of refugees will contest the games. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has picked ten athletes from 43 to take part in the games as part of this new team. These athletes will contest under the Olympic flag. They will contest the games as ‘Team Refugee Olympic Athletes’ or ‘Team ROA’.

This will be the first time that Olympians will be represented under the Olympic Flag who are not representing a country that doesn’t have a National Olympic Committee (NOC). In the past Olympians have competed under the Olympic Flag for newly created countries, as South Sudanese athletes did during the 2012 London Olympics

The refugees picked for the team originally hail from South Sudan, Ethiopia, Syria and the Democratic of the Congo. They will take part in a range of sports from athletics to swimming to Judo. The athletes are hosted by the National Olympic Committees in their countries of residence. In order to pay for athlete training a fund of US$2 million (€1.7m) was created by the IOC. The ten athletes who have qualified are:

Name Sport Event Country Host NOC
James Chiengjiek Athletics 400m South Sudan Kenya
Yiech Biel Athletics 800m South Sudan Kenya
Paulo Lokoro Athletics 1500m South Sudan Kenya
Yonas Kinde Athletics Marathon Ethopia Luxembourg
Popole Misenga Judo -90kg Democratic Republic of the Congo Brazil
Rami Anis Swimming 100m Butterfly Syria Belgium
Rose Lokonyen Athletics 800m South Sudan Kenya
Anjelina Lohalith Athletics 1500m South Sudan Kenya
Yolande Mabika Judo -70kg Democratic Republic of the Congo Brazil
Yusra Mardini Swimming 200m Freestyle Syria Germany

“By welcoming the team of Refugee Olympic Athletes to the Olympic Games Rio 2016, we want to send a message of hope for all refugees in our world,” said IOC President Thomas Bach. “Having no national team to belong to, having no flag to march behind, having no national anthem to be played, these refugee athletes will be welcomed to the Olympic Games with the Olympic flag and with the Olympic Anthem. They will have a home together with all the other 11,000 athletes from 206 National Olympic Committees in the Olympic Village.”

The team will enter the Olympic Stadium behind the Olympic Flag, before the hosts Brazil, at the opening ceremony.

The IOC has worked with a number of United Nations agencies to help refugees around the world. Over the last 20 years the IOC and UNHCR in particular have been using sport to support healing & development among young refugees in many camps and settlements around the world. They have consequently seen thousands of refugees benefit from sports programmes and equipment donated by the IOC.

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Stephen Spillane

30 year old Cork feen who should have left UCC years ago, but still writing for the Express. Has written for a number of websites including Spirituality Ireland and ESC Ireland. Interests include Politics, Religion and other things that shouldn't be spoken about in polite company.