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Representing refugees: Yusra Mardini

IOC/Alexander Hassenstein
30 Jan 2018
Olympism in Action Forum
Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini made waves after plunging into the Aegean Sea to help push a sinking dinghy, overcrowded with 20 migrants, to safety. She eventually made her way to Berlin, where she trained as part of the Rio 2016 Refugee Olympic Team.


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.

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“When I arrived in Berlin to train, the other kids I was training with were all speaking German and I was like… ‘ummm.’ But now I’ve grown; I know how to speak English, and there’s a lot of them who know a little bit of English. Sometimes I try to speak German, which is not working, but I’m still trying. We have a connection. If I speak two words in German and five words in English, they will understand.”

“My home country couldn’t offer all this. Here, they can offer a lot of things and support you the right way. I think I can do whatever I want to, and I want to do it for all the people; I want to inspire everyone.”

IOC/Claire Thomas

“When you have a problem in your life, it doesn’t mean you have to sit around and cry like babies or something. The problem was the reason that I’m here, and why I am stronger and want to reach my goals. So I want to inspire everyone that they can do what they believe in their hearts.”

“I want everyone to stay strong for their goals in life, because if you have your goals in front of your eyes, you will do everything that you can. And I think that even if I fail I will still try again. Maybe I will be sad, but I will not show it, and I will try again and again until I get it. I want to show everybody that it’s hard to arrive at your dreams – but it’s not impossible. You can do it. Everyone can do it. If I can do it, any athlete can do it.”

IOC/Alexander Hassenstein

“I want to tell everyone that ‘refugee’ is not a bad word. We’re still humans; we can do a lot of good things to show everyone that we are. Plus, when you’re an athlete, you are not thinking about if you are Syrian or from London or from Germany. You just think about your race. You have your lane, your swimming cap, your swimming lessons – and that’s it.”

“I’m really hoping that in the next Olympic Games, there will be another Refugee Team.”

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