Refugee athletes continue journey to Tokyo

After the postponement of Tokyo 2020, the IOC Refugee Athlete Scholarship-holders are continuing to train towards their goal with support from Olympic Solidarity. Ahead of World Refugee Day on 20 June, we provide an update on the progress of this inspirational group of 49 athletes.  

  • With Tokyo 2020 postponed until 2021, 49 refugee athletes will continue to receive support grants from Olympic Solidarity for another year.  
  • On World Refugee Day, we checked in to see how these athletes have been dealing with the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.  
  • In August, Athlete365 will be hosting a webinar with refugee athlete Yusra Mardini, an Olympian in swimming.  

In the four years since the first-ever IOC Refugee Olympic Team provided a symbol of hope for millions at Rio 2016, a group of 49 athletes has been receiving Refugee Athlete Support grants from Olympic Solidarity to help fund their attempts to qualify for Tokyo 2020.  

The final team was due to be announced this month, but instead the Olympic Games have been postponed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the news that Olympic Solidarity will extend the 49 Refugee Athlete Support Scholarships has come as a great relief to this inspirational group, who would not be able to continue training for Tokyo 2020 without it. 

Staying positive 

Some of the athletes are viewing the postponement in a positive way, as it gives them more time to work on their skills and improve their qualification chances. They will also gain media exposure by giving interviews in which they tell their incredible stories in the extended build-up to the world’s biggest sporting event 

In addition, refugee scholarshipholders have been working with the IOC on various educational programmes available on Athlete365. This will ensure that when competitions resume, they will have improved their knowledge on key topics affecting the world of sport. 

Staying strong 

Refugees have experience in dealing with uncertainty, and a number of the 49 scholarshipholders, who cover 11 sports, have been reframing their situations positively and posting inspirational messages while dealing with the different challenges presented by COVID-19, as part of the IOC’s #StayStrong campaign 

“Just like with refugees, this is a situation where we need to come together as human beings to support each other because we never know how long it will take to improve,” says Yiech Pur Biel, an 800m runner from South Sudan who was a member of the first Refugee Olympic Team at Rio 2016 and now lives, studies and trains in Iowa, USA. 

“We need to support those in need. Refugees know that. But we are in this as a family. So I say, don’t lose hope. Let’s bring back some humanity and friendship.” 

World Refugee Day 

To coincide with World Refugee Day on 20 June, the Olympic Channel has released its latest series, Taking Refugewhich follows three refugees in their bid to qualify for Tokyo 2020 in shooting sportscoached and mentored by Olympic champion Niccolo Campriani. 

“If meditation were a sport, it would be the sport of shooting,” says Khaoula, a mother-of-one originally from Palestine, who travels to India to train with IOC Athletes’ Commission member and Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra as part of the series.  

“When I am in front of the target, I forget everything and feel relaxed, she says.  

Swimmer Yusra Mardini, member of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team Rio 2016, will be participating in a webinar with Athlete365 in August. Follow our social channels for more details.