What is the Refugee Olympic Team?

The Tokyo Olympic Games will start on July 23rd, 2021, followed by the Paralympic Games on August 24th. For these international competitions, athletes compete for their home country; but that is not possible for refugee athletes. 

Why is there a Refugee Olympic Team?

In 2015, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced the creation of the Refugee Olympic Team (EOR) for the Rio Olympics. Ten athletes from Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria and Democratic Republic of Congo were competing alongside 11,000 fellow athletes in Brazil, sending a message of “hope and inclusion to millions of refugees around the world and inspiring the world with the strength of their human spirit”, according to the IOC.

The IOC decided to renew the experience for the Tokyo Olympic Games, originally scheduled for July 2020 (postponed to July 2021 because of the Covid-19 pandemic). The IOC helps these athletes prepare for the trials and competition by granting scholarships. This year, the athletes on the Refugee Olympic Team are coming from 21 host countries, including an athlete based in Canada.

Who will compete for the Refugee Olympic and Paralympic Teams in Tokyo 2021?

The composition of the Refugee Olympic Team was announced in June 2021. The team is composed of 29 Refugee Athletes, representing 12 sports. Six athletes have also been selected to compete for the Refugee Paralympic Team.

During the Opening Ceremony, the team will march with the Olympic flag in second position, immediately after Greece. For all official representations of the team (including possible medal ceremonies), the Olympic flag will be raised, and the Olympic anthem will be played.

The United Nations Refugee Agency works in partnership with the IOC to make the Refugee Olympics and Paralympics Teams happen, supporting the idea that “sport is a universal language and provides a vital platform to raise awareness of displacement and statelessness issues and help change perceptions and attitudes.”

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