The International Olympic Committee this year has assembled a team of Olympic refugee athletes, who will take part in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Olympic team has been given the title, “Team Refugee Olympic Athletes (ROA),” and includes athletes from four different nations.
Two judokas have been selected from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and two swimmers from Syria will be competing this year as well. Five runners from South Sudan and one marathon runner from Ethiopia have also been given the opportunity to take part in the Olympics this year. Team ROA participate in the opening ceremony along with athletes from all over the world, and will also be housed at the Olympic Village. The team is going to march behind the Olympic flag, before the host team, Brazil, during the opening ceremony.
Thomas Bach, who is the current International Olympic Committee (IOC) President, stated that even though the refugees had no home and no flag, or even their national anthem to sing, or a national team, that they will be housed in the Olympic Village together with all the athletes of the world. He hopes that this will serve as a symbol of hope to other refugees throughout the world, and raise awareness on the magnitude of the situation.
Bach’s statements aimed to reach the international community to show that refugees are an “enrichment to society,” as they bring their contribution through their talents, skills, and strengths, despite having endured the tragedies of war.
Filippo Grandi is the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and spoke of how these athletes, whose sport is of a high standard, may have had their sporting careers interrupted, but are now able to pursue their dreams. He said that their participation in this year’s Olympic Games was indeed a tribute to “courage and perseverance of all refugees” in the face of adversity.
The International Olympic Committee aims to uphold a “sense of global community” and Bach reminded us that we also have the responsibility of welcoming refugees into our communities, that they may build a better life for themselves.