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