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A delegation from the IOC and the HOC, headed by IOC Member Mario Pescante, HOC President Spyros Capralos and Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis, who won Olympic bronze in sailing at Rio 2016, were in Lesbos on 1 October to inspect the stadium and visit the local Kare Tepe refugee camp, where they handed over a consignment of sports equipment for the camp’s children.
In September 2015, in the spirit of sport doing its part to address the refugee crisis, particularly poignant in Europe at that time and, in parallel to the already existing IOC programmes lending support to refugees, the IOC, in collaboration with Olympic Solidarity, decided to establish a USD 2 million fund to encourage NOCs, in collaboration with local partners already active in this field, to promote integration through sports and other activities, with a view to improving the lives of refugees.
This initiative has drawn much interest from NOCs, which have applied in large numbers, mainly in Europe, and implemented various activities that have, in a general climate of growing hostility towards refugees, directly contributed to promoting tolerance and understanding through sport.
Amongst them, the NOCs of Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands have developed, with local partners, programmes of sports activities for refugees implemented through local sports clubs. These programmes have had a massive impact, as shown by the moving testimonials both of beneficiaries and volunteers involved in the project in the Netherlands. In Austria, the NOC has developed sports projects and programmes in refugee camps and homes through five of its Olympic Centres across the country. In addition to having helped the municipality of Lesvos to refurbish the local football stadium, the NOC of Greece has also set up four basketball courts within Elaionas, the biggest refugee camp in the heart of Athens. Other NOCs, such as Iraq and Slovenia, have used the fund to provide immediate humanitarian assistance.
Through the momentum created by this solidarity effort, many networks and connections have been created, and these continue to generate positive initiatives and outcomes.