skip to content
IOC/Claire Thomas
03 Apr 2018
Olympism in Action Forum
Olympism in Action Forum

A Refugee and an Olympian

Yiech Pur Biel is a South Sudanese refugee who lived in the Kakuma Refugee camp in Kenya from the age of 10. He made history as a middle-distance runner on the 2016 Refugee Olympic Team in Rio.


In the run-up to the Olympism in Action Forum in Buenos Aires (5-6 October 2018), we looked at groups and individuals who, inspired by the power of sport to contribute to a better world, have used their initiative to organise projects and programmes to effect change at all levels.

More stories
How we do

“Sport can build a better world. I lived in the Kakuma refugee camp starting at age 10, but participating in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio changed my life. Competing in the Olympic Games opened many doors for me as young person. The Refugee Olympic Team participation in the Olympics tells the world that we can have an impact despite being refugees.”

“I encourage young people like me to see sport as a tool to change their own lives. When you involve yourself in sport, it can give you a united identity as part of a team. It also gives you a chance to interact with other people, to be a better person, and to work towards a career that can change your life.”

“Becoming an ambassador for refugees gave me a chance to continue to make and tell our history. I am a refugee who tells non-refugees that young refugees can and should participate in sports with other people. When we compete in the Olympics, it's to tell our story, to carry our message, and continue to inspire other people through sport so that other activities like education are accessible to all people. We need to let the world know, let young refugees know, that we are not only refugees – we can do something. A refugee is only a name, and anyone can be a refugee. Being a refugee also means being a better person.”

“The goal of the Olympics is to build a peaceful environment for all athletes and eliminate discrimination among people. That is the reason why the Olympic Movement created Team Refugee – to show that we must be one, that we must respect each other. There's no difference between us. It's only that we are a different colour or speak a different language. The Olympics unites people through sport so they can find friendship, fair play and solidarity.”

IOC/Claire Thomas

“When you become an Olympian, the goal is not only to win, it is to be together and put differences aside. The Olympics builds a peaceful environment and creates unity among people. When I compete in the Olympics it shows that the world doesn’t care if I don't have a state, if I don't have a country; it says I can still be involved in sport. The Olympics give me room to be an athlete as a refugee and to identify myself through my talent as a young person.”

“My goal, apart from having a career as an athlete, is to pursue my education in international relations and to continue to be an ambassador for other people. I want to inspire young people, talented people, to go into many different careers. They should know that they can do sport, but they must also follow their career aspirations. It is a triangle that works together. Sport can help you access education, you need to get an education to have a career, and a career will help you achieve your destination.”

“Even after competing in the Olympics I will continue to spread the same message – to tell my story, to let young people know that sport can change their lives.”

back to top Fr