Nearly a dozen athletes will be part of a new Olympic team of refugee athletes at Rio 2016, though it has not been revealed whether there are any equestrians among them.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has created Team Refugee Olympic Athletes, which will be treated at the Olympic Games like all the other teams of the 206 National Olympic Committees.
The team will get its own welcome ceremony at the Olympic Village, and at all official representations of the team (including possible medal ceremonies), the Olympic flag will be raised and the Olympic Anthem played. The IOC would provide team uniforms, its Executive Board said.
Olympic Solidarity will cover travel and other participation expenses for the team and will continue to support the athletes of the team after the Olympic Games.
As part of the IOC’s pledge to aid potential elite athletes affected by the worldwide refugee crisis, National Olympic Committees were asked to identify any refugee athlete with the potential to qualify for the Olympic Games Rio 2016.
Forty-three promising candidates have been identified, whom the IOC is now assisting. The call for new candidates closed this week, and only under exceptional circumstances requiring the approval of the IOC President will new candidates be considered.
“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 ROA team for Rio 2016 is expected to number between five and 10 athletes. The participating athletes and the other members of the ROA team will be named by the IOC Executive Board at its next meeting in June this year.
The IOC already works with a number of United Nations agencies to help refugees around the world. For the last 20 years, the IOC and UNHCR in particular have been using sport to support healing and development among young refugees in many camps and settlements around the world. They have consequently seen thousands of refugees benefit from sports programmes and equipment donated by the IOC.