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Refugee Olympians to represent 114 million global displaced

14 May 20240 comments

Thirty-six refugee athletes from eleven different countries, hosted by fifteen National Olympic Committees (NOCs) will compete across a dozen sports at the Paris Olympics.

The IOC Refugee Olympic Team was announced at a recent ceremony at Olympic House in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Appearing at the Olympic Games for the third time, the IOC Refugee Olympic Team will represent the 114 million people displaced people around the world.

IOC President Thomas back said the athletes would be welcomed “with open arms”.

“You are an enrichment to our Olympic Community, and to our societies. With your participation in the Olympic Games, you will demonstrate the human potential of resilience and excellence. This will send a message of hope to the more than 100 million displaced people around the world. At the same time, you will make billions of people around the world aware of the magnitude of the refugee crisis,” he said.

The composition of the team was approved by the IOC Executive Board and was based on a number of criteria including each athlete’s sporting performance and their refugee status as verified by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

 Consideration was also given to a balanced representation of sport and gender, as well as the spread of countries of origin.

Chef de Mission for the Refugee Olympic Team Masomah Ali Zada, who competed for the Refugee Olympic Team at Tokyo 2020, welcomed the athletes.

“All of you had a dream, and today your dream to compete at the Olympic Games is closer than ever. With all the challenges that you have faced, you now have a chance to inspire a new generation, represent something bigger than yourselves and show the world what refugees are capable of,” she said.

“I want to tell you: this will be your moment in Paris, enjoy it. I am looking forward to working with all of you to make this the experience of a lifetime.”

The vast majority of the athletes were selected from among the refugee athletes supported by the IOC through the Refugee Athletes Scholarship Programme, funded by the IOC’s Olympic Solidarity programme and managed by the Olympic Refuge Foundation (ORF).

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said the Refugee Olympic Team should remind us of the resilience, courage and hopes of all those uprooted by war and persecution.

“These athletes represent what human beings can do, even in the face of extreme adversity. The team also reminds us that sport can be transformative for people whose lives have been disrupted in often harrowing circumstances. Transformative not just for Olympians, but for everyone. Sport can offer respite, an escape from daily worries, a sense of safety, a moment of enjoyment. It can give people the chance to heal physically and mentally, and become part of a community again,” Mr Grandi said.

For the first time, the Refugee Olympic Team will compete under its own team emblem – a unifying symbol bringing together diverse athletes and giving the team its own unique identity.

Hailing from different corners of the world, each team member is an individual with their own story.

Like the many millions they stand for, they also have the shared, lived, experience of their journeys – the emblem aims to convey this through its way marker arrow design.

At the centre of the emblem there is a heart, originating from the Olympic Refuge Foundation logo, to represent the belonging the team hopes to inspire and that athletes and displaced people around the world have found through sport.

Ms Ali Zada said: “This emblem brings us all together. We are all unified by our experience – though all different, we have all had a journey to get to where we are. The athletes are not representing a specific country, they are representing the Refugee Olympic Team – having our own emblem creates a sense of belonging and empowers us to also stand for the population of more than 100 million people who share this same experience. I cannot wait to wear it proudly!”

The Olympic Refuge Foundation (ORF) was established in 2017 to build on this commitment. The Foundation functions in lieu of a traditional National Olympic Committee, managing the Refugee Athlete Scholarship-holders and the IOC Refugee Olympic Team for Paris 2024.

Since its inception, the work of the ORF has resulted in almost 400,000 young people being able to access safe sport. More than 1,600 coaches have been trained in delivering safe sport sessions, and its programmes have supported young people in 11 countries across all five continents.

See the team members here: Refugee Team | Olympic Refuge Foundation (