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At the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in October 2015, confronted with the global refugee crisis that has seen an estimated 68.5 million people in the world displaced, IOC President Thomas Bach announced the creation of the Refugee Olympic Team – the first of its kind – to take part in the Olympic Games Rio 2016.

Ten months on from the announcement, the 10 athletes, who originally hailed from Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, were competing alongside 11,000 fellow athletes in Brazil, sending a message of hope and inclusion to millions of refugees around the world and inspiring the world with the strength of their human spirit.

In October 2018, with two years to go to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, the IOC Session have decided that there will be a Refugee Olympic Team for Tokyo 2020 and mandated Olympic Solidarity to establish the conditions of participation and define the identification and selection process for a team in Tokyo. These elements will be carried out in close collaboration with the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, the National Olympic Committees, the International Sport Federation and Tokyo 2020.

The announcement of the Tokyo 2020 Refugee Olympic Team members will be made in 2020.

BACKGROUND

As part of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s to aid potential elite athletes affected by the worldwide refugee crisis, National Olympic Committees (NOCs) around the world were asked by the IOC to identify any refugee athletes with the potential to qualify for the Olympic Games Rio 2016. Such candidates could then receive funding from Olympic Solidarity to assist with their preparations and qualification efforts.

This will be a symbol of hope for all refugees in the world, and will make the world better aware of the magnitude of this crisis. It is also a signal to the international community that refugees are our fellow human beings and are an enrichment to society. Thomas Bach IOC President

Forty-three promising candidates were initially identified. Ten refugee athletes were ultimately selected to make up the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team. Acting as a symbol of hope for refugees worldwide and bringing global attention to the refugee crisis, the athletes took part in the Olympic Games Rio 2016, marching and competing under the Olympic flag. 

Selection of the 10 athletes was based on consultation with their host NOCs, International Federations, the UNHCR and the NOCs of their countries of origin. Nomination criteria included sporting level, official refugee status verified by the United Nations, and personal situation and background.

Olympian and former marathon world record-holder Tegla Loroupe (Kenya) was the team’s Chef de Mission, while Isabela Mazão (Brazil), who was proposed by the UNHCR, acted as the Deputy Chef de Mission.

Please find the biographies of the refugee athletes from Rio 2016 here..

 

WHAT’S NEXT?

Beyond the Olympic Games, the IOC continues to support these athletes day by day through its Olympic Solidarity Refugee Athletes Support Programme, to help them to build their future, while the UNHCR also supports them to continue to convey this positive message of solidarity and hope through sport and advocate the cause of refugees.


Who are they?

Rami Anis

Country of origin – Syria
Host NOC – Belgium 
Sport – swimming

Yusra Mardini

Country of origin – Syria
Host NOC – Germany
Sport – swimming

Yolande Bukasa Mabika

Country of origin – Democratic Republic of the Congo
Host NOC – Brazil
Sport – judo, -70kg

Popole Misenga

Country of origin – Democratic Republic of the Congo
Host NOC – Brazil
Sport – judo, -90kg

Yonas Kinde

Country of origin – Ethiopia
Host NOC – Luxembourg
Sport – athletics, marathon

Yiech Pur Biel

Country of origin – South Sudan
Host NOC – Kenya
Sport – athletics, 800M

Paulo Amotun Lokoro

Country of origin – South Sudan
Host NOC – Kenya
Sport – athletics, 1500m

Olympic Refuge Foundation

Working in cooperation with the United Nations, international organisation, non-governmental organisations and other foundations, the Olympic Refuge Foundation supports the protection and empowerment of vulnerable displaced people through sport, and through the creation of safe spaces.

Learn more


Gallery

Olympic Forum - Buenos Aires 2018
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Olympic Forum - Buenos Aires 2018

Thomas Bach and panelists - Journey From Refugee to Olympian: Spotlight on Rio 2016 Olympic Team during day 2 of the Olympic Forum Buenos Aires 2018 at CECBA on October 6, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
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Olympic Forum - Buenos Aires 2018
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Olympic Forum - Buenos Aires 2018

(L-R) Moderator Jim Bell, Yiech Pur Biel and Yusra Mardini - Journey From Refugee to Olympian: Spotlight on Rio 2016 Olympic Team during day 2 of the Olympic Forum Buenos Aires 2018 at CECBA on October 6, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
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Refugee Olympic Team swimmer Anis fulfils his dream
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Refugee Olympic Team swimmer Anis fulfils his dream

2016 Getty Images
Closing Ceremony
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Closing Ceremony

Shaunae Miller of Bahamas, Arthur Nory Mariano of Brazil, Kaori Icho of Japan, Pita Taufatofua of Tonga and Yusra Mardini of the Refugee Olympic Team on stage during the Closing Ceremony on Day 16 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Maracana Stadium on August 21, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
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Refugee Olympic Team swimmer Anis fulfils his dream
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Refugee Olympic Team swimmer Anis fulfils his dream

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Women's Judo 70kg
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Women's Judo 70kg

Yolanda Bukasa of The Refugee Olympic Team competes against Linda Bolder of Israel (blue) in the Women's 70kg category at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Carioca Arena 2, on August 10, 2016.
IOC/David Burnett
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