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President Bach joined members of the Refugee Olympic Team (ROT) today at the United Nations in Geneva. Sitting alongside Tegla Loroupe, the three-time Olympian and Chef de Mission of the ROT from Kenya, and 800m runner Rose Lokonyen, he participated in a meeting that took place during the UN Human Rights Council.
Joined by IOC Honorary President Jacques Rogge, who is the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Youth Refugees and Sport, President Bach told the meeting that the Refugee Olympic Team at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 “had provided a much needed opportunity for the world to think differently about refugees and migrants in the light of the current crises and beyond that. Their participation was proof that refugees are an enrichment to society, just as they are an enrichment to our Olympic family.”
The side event was organised by the Permanent Mission of Greece to the United Nations Office in Geneva with the IOC and looked at “sport and integration” and “the promotion of human rights for refugees and migrants”.
ROT member Rose Lokonyen from South Sudan, who was the ROT flag bearer, told the audience that it had been a dream come true when she joined the ROT in Rio de Janeiro: “The creation of the Refugee Olympic Team by IOC President Thomas Bach gave us hope. He gave us an opportunity, and he gave us the chance to live a dream,” she said. “Never could I have imagined that sport could take me so far. But through a lot of hard work, hours of training and great support and guidance from the Tegla Loroupe Foundation, and Tegla herself, we achieved great success.”
In 2003, Tegla Loroupe founded the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation (TLPF). It is a Peace and Development organisation that promotes peaceful co-existence and socio-economic development of poor and marginalised individuals and communities in Northern Kenya and the Greater Horn of Africa Region. Six out of the ten members of the ROT came from the programmes Tegla Loroupe is organising in Kenya. “Every day we use sport as a tool to provide a platform for dialogue among young people and communities in conflict,” she said.
IOC Honorary President Rogge pointed out that more than 50 per cent of the world’s 60 million refugees and displaced persons are children and youth: “I salute here the work of UNHCR and many other organisations that recognise the importance of sport as an effective tool to engage youth. It enables us to tackle a number of key issues ranging from protection, gender-based violence, and the empowerment of girls, to education, health, trauma recovery and peace-building.”
The attendees included Mr Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees; Ms Kelly Clements, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees; Ms Kate Gilmore, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights; and Ms Laura Thomson, Deputy Director General of the International Organisation for Migration.