In a visit to the UNHCR headquarters in Geneva on Friday, IOC President Thomas Bach and UNHCR High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi spoke of the great partnership between the two organisations.
Speaking to UNHCR staff in Geneva, President Bach said: ”We have already been working together for 20 years, and we want to extend and expand our cooperation. This partnership helps us to put sport at the service of humankind.”
High Commissioner Grandi described the partnership as “very important”. He added: “at the heart of our cooperation is the desire to use sport as a symbol of hope for people who have so few reasons to look to the future with optimism.”
This partnership helps us to put sport at the service of humankind.Thomas Bach IOC President
Both men highlighted the recent success of the Refugee Olympic Team (ROT), which was created by the IOC and which competed for the first time at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, helping to highlight the plight of refugees around the world. “They are great spokespeople, great role models and great promoters of our values,” said Mr Grandi.
President Bach added: “The Refugee Olympic Team was the IOC’s vision, but it would never have been possible without UNHCR, without the support on the ground to help us implement such a successful programme.”
The IOC and UNHCR first began their cooperation in 1994. The collaboration has seen sports projects in more than 45 countries, which has allowed for the provision of basic sports equipment, the rehabilitation of sports grounds and the organisation of regular recreational activities.
The partnership between the IOC and UNHCR has been further reinforced over the last decade. Since 2004, the IOC and UNHCR have organised a “Giving is Winning” programme in the run-up to each edition of the Olympic Games. The programme consists of a global solidarity and awareness-raising campaign for athletes and officials at the Olympic Games, who are able to learn more about the plight of refugees via an immersive experience at a dedicated “Giving is Winning” booth at the IOC Space in the Olympic Village.
In 2014, IOC Honorary President Jacques Rogge was appointed as Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Youth Refugees and Sport, to help raise the profile of youth refugees and the impact of sport as a tool for peace and an inclusive society. Since then, he has conducted missions and support programmes in Jordan, Ethiopia, Colombia and Rwanda.
The more recent example of the partnership was the creation of the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team. With the help of the National Olympic Committees and UNHCR, the IOC identified a number of athletes living in forced displacement, and helped them through its Olympic Solidarity programmes to take part in the Olympic Games Rio 2016. Beyond the Olympic Games, the IOC continues to support these athletes day by day, to help them to build their future, while UNHCR also supports them to continue to convey this positive message of solidarity and hope through sport and advocate the cause of refugees.
During a separate meeting, the IOC President and the UNHCR High Commissioner reaffirmed their commitment to a number of upcoming initiatives using sport to improve the lives of refugees and displaced people around the world.
They also discussed the future support for the athletes who took part in the Refugee Olympic Team in Rio de Janeiro with support for the 10 athletes who made up the team who are no longer in a refugee camp and have all now been found accommodation and are being given support and advice on education and their future beyond sport. The two also discussed the possibility of a Refugee Olympic Team for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, which the IOC President described as “work in progress”.