Stateless “Team Refugee Athletes” cleared to compete at Rio 2016 Olympics!

refugee athletes

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced yesterday the formation of a new, nation-less team of athletes cleared to compete in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero, Brazil this summer. According to a statement released on the IOC website, the all-refugee team will be treated the same as the other teams representing the 206 National Olympic Committees (NOCs). They will be called Team Refugee Olympic Athletes.

“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,” said 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 has long provided aid to elite athletes affected by the worldwide refugee crisis, this year asking participating NOCs to identify refugee athletes with potential to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Forty-three candidates were identified. The call for additional athletes has closed, and the IOC Executive Board (EB) said that only under exceptional circumstances and with IOC President approval will new candidates be considered.

The EB also approved all operational aspects surrounding “Team ROA” which includes provision of housing in the athlete’s village alongside all other teams, with a dedicated entourage of Chef de Mission, coaches and technical officials (as per official quotas) to tend team needs.

All expenses will be picked up by Olympic Solidarity, the IOC branch that manages the Olympic Games broadcast rights, redistributing earnings through program offered to all recognized NOCs.

The athletes will be provided with specially designed team uniforms, training and equipment, and all necessary insurances.  They will participate in their own Olympic Village welcome ceremony at the Olympic Village, like all other teams; but for each official representation such as medal ceremonies, the Olympic flag will be raised and the Olympic Anthem will be played. The refugee athletes will receive continued support after the event concludes, although details of what that encompasses have not been released.

The ROA team for Rio 2016 is expected to number up to 10 athletes who will be named, along with the sport thy represent, by the IOC EB in June.  At the Opening Ceremony, this special team will march behind the Olympic flag before host team Brazil. Let the games begin.

Photo credit: David Davies/PA Wire

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