Team refugee: 29-athlete squad set to compete at the Tokyo Olympics

Refugees from 11 countries will compete at the upcoming Tokyo Games under a shared flag.

Refugees from 11 countries, including Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, are set to compete at next month’s Tokyo Games as part of an expanded 2020 Refugee Olympic Team. The team, which was drawn from a pool of 55 athletes all forced to flee their homes due to conflict and persecution, will compete under the Olympic flag in sports including swimming, athletics and judo.

With 29 athletes, the team is nearly three times as large as the inaugural refugee squad that competed at the 2016 Rio Games, with six of those 10 athletes returning for a second medal attempt.

The team includes: Germany-based Kimia Alizadeh, who won Bronze for Iran in taekwondo at the 2016 Rio games; Wessam Salamana, who represented Syria at boxing in the 2012 Olympic Games in London; and Syrian swimmer Yusra Mardini, pictured above, who was member of the refugee team in Rio.

"They serve as a reminder that everyone deserves the chance to succeed in life."

Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The success of the Refugee Olympic Team in 2016 led to the creation of a dedicated Olympic Solidarity programme for refugee athletes. Currently, some 1,600 athletes – including the 29 members of the 2020 team – are benefiting from scholarships supporting their training and participation in high-level competitions.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has also launched the Olympic Refuge Foundation to work in partnership with UN agencies, governments, nonprofits and the private sector to support sports programmes for displaced youngsters.

Since its formation in 2017, the foundation has run 12 programmes in eight countries, including Jordan, Turkey, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo, helping young refugees to pursue sporting opportunities and potentially follow their dreams to the next Olympics.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi described the Refugee Olympic Team as “an exceptional group of people who inspire the world”.

He said: “It shows what is possible when refugees are given the opportunity to make the most of their potential…They serve as a reminder that everyone deserves the chance to succeed in life.” - PA