With Help from UNHCR, Refugees Team Up to Compete at Rio Olympics

Iunhcrn order to shine a light on the lives of the 65.3 million people currently displaced worldwide, the International Olympics Committee has assembled a team of athletes like no other. Rather than represent a single country, the members of the Refugee Olympic Team hail from South Sudan, Syria, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and will compete under the Olympic Flag. The team is composed of ten athletes, who will compete in swimming, track and field, and judo events. In selecting the final ten competitors out of an initial pool of over forty candidates, the IOC consulted a number of refugee organizations, including the UNHCR, who has partnered with the committee since the 1990s. Today, the IOC and UNHCR provide athletic equipment and spaces to refugees in over 20 countries, including Kenya, Belgium, and Germany, the host nations of several members of the Refugee Team. In their own words, recorded in this video series for UNHCR, the athletes aim to represent the extraordinary courage and resilience of refugees worldwide—and to offer hope to the millions who are struggling to survive. “I can show to my fellow refugees that they have a chance and a hope in life,” says Yiech Pur Bel, a track and field athlete from South Sudan. “Through education, but also in running, you can change the world.”