Olympic Games: larger refugee squad will inspire the world – IOC

FILE PHOTO: Syrian refugee and Olympic swimmer Yusra Mardini poses after a workout in a swimming pool in the Olympic Park in Berlin, Germany April 12, 2018. REUTERS / Fabrizio Bensch

LAUSANNE, Switzerland – An enlarged refugee team of 29 athletes competing in 12 sports at next month’s Tokyo Games will bring hope and inspiration to the world, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said on Tuesday.

The team, which will compete under the Olympic flag and include people from countries such as Syria, South Sudan, Eritrea, Afghanistan and Iran, is almost three times the size of the inaugural squad. of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro 2016.

Syrian swimmer Yusra Mardini, who swam to safety when her boat capsized between Turkey and Greece in 2015, will be back for her second Games after storming Rio.

Also on the team, Kimia Alizadeh, Iran’s first female Olympic medalist when she won bronze in taekwondo at the 2016 Olympics, and her compatriot Iranian canoe-kayak Saeid Fazloula.

Alizadeh left in 2020 saying she was oppressed as a woman, while Fazloula reached Germany in 2015 via the Balkans.

“I speak on behalf of the entire Olympic Movement when I say we look forward to meeting you in person and seeing you compete in Tokyo,” said IOC President Thomas Bach during a virtual presentation of the team.

“It will send a powerful message of solidarity, resilience and hope to the world… You are an integral part of our Olympic community and we welcome you with open arms.”

The athletes, who will enter the stadium during the opening ceremony in second place behind the founders of the Ancient Games, Greece, were selected from a pool of 56, supported by Olympic scholarships from 13 different countries.

The IOC unveiled its first refugee team at the Rio Games to raise awareness of the issue as hundreds of thousands of people flocked to Europe from the Middle East and beyond to flee conflict and poverty.

This 10-member team from Syria, Congo, Ethiopia and South Sudan took part in athletics, swimming and judo competitions.

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