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Refugees To Compete In Olympics!

March 8th, 2016
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - CIRCA MARCH 2015: Flag with Rio 2016 Olympic Games

photo credit: Bigstockphoto.com

The 2016 Summer Olympics will be in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this August.  And for the first time ever, refugees will be competing.

Refugees are people who had to leave their country because it’s unsafe, usually because of war … and because of that they they don’t belong to any country.

They can’t compete for the country they left and they aren’t a citizen of the country they’re in. They’re in a sort of limbo.

Many refugees live temporarily in camps (sometimes for years) and that makes it pretty impossible to train for their sport. Their focus is on trying to rebuild their lives and heal from the trauma that led them to leave their country in the first place.

Professional soccer player, Teddy Gossengha told CNN : “I’ve lost almost two years. I would like to develop my sporting talent, because I don’t know when the war will finish. The more I stay here, the more I will lose my talent.”

Over the past few years there have been an unusually large number of refugees — an estimated 20 million. That’s greater than the population of some countries. The International Olympic Committee is acknowledging this new reality. Thomas Bach, the head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said, “We have all been touched by the magnitude of this refugee crisis. By welcoming this team, we want to send a message of hope to all the refugees in the world.”

IOC president, Thomas Bach, visiting a refugee camp in Greece in January 2016. Photo credit: IOC Flickr/CC

There will be a handful of refugee athletes at best, and those who will compete are from different nationalities and live in different countries, but together they will represent Team of Refugee Olympic Athletes (Team ROA). “Having no national team to belong to, having no flag to march behind, having no national anthem to be played, these refugee athletes will be welcomed to the Olympic Games with the Olympic flag and with the Olympic Anthem,” said Mr. Bach.

So far, there’s a Syrian swimmer who is in Germany, a judoka (a person who does Judo) from the Democratic Republic of Congo who is in Brazil, an a taekwondo fighter who is originally from Iran and is now in Belgium.

The Olympic torch relay will also acknowledge the refugee crisis as it passes through Athens, Greece. Greece is the birthplace of the Olympics, but Greece is also the first stop for many refugees on their way to a new land and hopefully a better life.

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