On what the International Olympic Committee president referred to as a “historic day,” the IOC announced that for the first time ever a team of refugees will participate in the Olympics in 2016.
President Thomas Bach stated that because the refugee athletes “have no home, no team, no flag, no national anthem,” the establishment of a refugee team will “give them a home in the Olympic village together with all the athletes around the world.”
Bach went on to state in an official IOC press release directed to the “international community” that the refugee team “will be a symbol of hope for all the refugees in our world, and will make the world better aware of the magnitude of the crisis… Refugees are our fellow human beings and are an enrichment to Society.”
The refugee team will consist of ten athletes—six men and four women—and will compete in swimming, judo, and athletics, reported Reuters. Like all the other national teams, the refugees will stay in the athletes’ village. They will march into the Olympic stadium in Rio de Janeiro in the penultimate position just before the host team of Brazil at the opening ceremony.
“The Olympic anthem will be played in their honor, the Olympic flag will lead them into the stadium,” Bach stated. “They will show to the world that despite the unimaginable tragedies they have faced, anyone can contribute to society through talent, skills and the strength of human spirit.”
Also, a group of five refugee coaches and five other non-athlete refugee officials will participate in the Rio games, which, according to the IOC, will aid in shining a “spotlight on the world refugee crisis.”