The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has created a refugee team for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The members have no home country to play for in the games.
“As part of the IOC’s pledge to aid potential elite athletes affected by the worldwide refugee crisis, the NOCs [National Olympic Committess] were asked to identify any refugee athlete with the potential to qualify for the Olympic Games Rio 2016,” wrote the IOC, adding:
Such candidates could then receive funding from Olympic Solidarity to assist with their preparations and qualification efforts.
Forty-three promising candidates have been identified, whom the IOC is now assisting. In view of the complexity of the process and in order to allow sufficient time to finalise and consolidate all the necessary information about these candidates, the EB decided today to close the call for new candidatures. Only under exceptional circumstances requiring the approval of the IOC President will new candidates be considered.
“By welcoming the team of Refugee Olympic Athletes to the Olympic Games Rio 2016, we want to send a message of hope for all refugees in our world,” declared IOC President Thomas Bach. “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. They will have a home together with all the other 11,000 athletes from 206 National Olympic Committees in the Olympic Village.”
The IOC will pick between five and ten athletes for the Team Refugee Olympic Athletes (ROA). They will announce the choices at the IOC Executive Board meeting in June.
The athletes will live in the village with the other teams while performing under the Olympic flag. The IOC will provide the uniforms, cover travel and expenses, and offer any support.
In January, Bach visited Greece where he promised that “refugee athletes will march together in the opening ceremony.” He also promised a refugee will “carry the torch during the Greek leg of the flame relay and that the route would include a stop at an Athens refugee camp.”
“We want to turn the attention of the world to the fate and the problems of the 60 million refugees in our world and their suffering,” he stated. “They have no hope, no flag to march behind, and no anthem,” Bach said. “We have invited them to participate, and these athletes will march behind the Olympic flag.”