LAUSANNE, Switzerland – An expanded refugee team of 29 athletes competing in 12 sports at next month’s Tokyo Games will provide hope and inspiration to the world, the International Olympic Committee said on Tuesday.
The team, which will compete under the Olympic flag and includes people from countries such as Syria, South Sudan, Eritrea, Afghanistan and Iran, is three times the size of the opening team at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Syrian swimmer Yusra Mardini, who swam to safety when her boat capsized between Turkey and Greece in 2015, will return to take part in her first course after overrunning Rio.
Also among the team members are Kimia Alizadeh, the first Iranian woman to win an Olympic medal when she won the bronze medal in taekwondo at the 2016 Olympics, and fellow Iranian regatta player Saeed Fadloulah.
Alizadeh left in 2020 saying she was oppressed as a woman, while Fadlula arrived in Germany in 2015 via the Balkans.
“I speak on behalf of the entire Olympic movement when I say we can’t wait to meet you in person and see you compete in Tokyo,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a virtual team presentation.
“You 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 take to the stadium during the opening ceremony in second place after the ancient founders of the Games Greece, were selected from among 56 groups, supported by Olympic grants from 13 different countries.
The International Olympic Committee has unveiled its first refugee team for the Rio Games to raise awareness of the issue as hundreds of thousands of people flock to Europe from the Middle East and elsewhere to escape conflict and poverty.
The 10-member team from Syria, Congo, Ethiopia and South Sudan competed in athletics, swimming and judo.
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