For the first time in Olympic Games history, an official refugee team is competing in Rio de Janeiro. All have fled conflicts in their home countries. “Team Refugee Olympic Athletes” includes two Syrian swimmers, an Ethiopian marathoner, two Congolese judokas, and five South Sudanese middle-distance runners. They will walk into the Opening Ceremonies tonight under the the Olympic flag and anthem not as victims but as athletes and competitors.
“When they march into that stadium, there are 60 million people marching right behind them,” U.N. Foundation spokesman Aaron Sherinian said. Refugees have competed in the past as independent athletes, but this is the first time they have joined together officially as a team.
“The power in their message is that, as athletes, they symbolize dignity. They are reminders that refugees are humans, not statistics. Their presence in the Games promotes empathy but not pity.”
Sources: Washington Post, UNHCR, IOC [Graphics by HumanRefuge(e)]