The power of sport

Thirty six refugees to compete at the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

Athletes from 11 different countries – including Syria, Afghanistan, and Iran - will be going to Paris as part of the 2024 Refugee Olympic Team. The group of 36 will compete in a range of categories including swimming, athletics, judo, boxing, weightlifting, and badminton.

This is the third time a refugee team is taking part in the Olympics, after Rio in 2016 and Tokyo in 2021. This time, the team will compete under their own unique emblem featuring a way marker arrow symbolising the shared journey of displaced people, with a heart at its centre to represent belonging.

The 2024 refugee Olympians include: Syrian Swimmer Alaa Maso, now living in Germany; taekwondo athletes, Dina Pouryounes, from Iran but now in the Netherlands; Yahya Al Ghotany, who took up the martial art in Jordan’s Azraq Refugee Camp after fleeing Syria; and Iran-born, Afghanistan-raised cyclist, Amir Ansari, who is now a refugee in Sweden.

Sprint canoeist Saeid Fazloulam, who also competed at the Tokyo Olympics as a refugee after leaving who Iran in 2015, said: “If I’m going on the water, I can shut it down, the problems. I can meditate under water, and I can forget what was, what happened and what’s coming.”

In a message to the refugee athletes, their Chef de Mission, Masomah Ali Zada, who as an Afghan refugee competed in Tokyo in the Cycling Time Trial event, said: "With all the challenges that you have faced, you now have a chance to inspire a new generation, represent something bigger than yourselves, and show the world what refugees are capable of."

"You now have a chance to inspire a new generation, represent something bigger than yourselves, and show the world what refugees are capable of."

Masomah Ali Zada, former refugee athlete, now Refugee Olympic Team Chef de Mission 

The success of the 2016 Refugee Olympic Team led to the creation of a dedicated Olympic Solidarity program specifically designed to support refugee athletes around the world. There are currently more than 1,600 athletes benefitting from the Refugee Athlete Scholarship Programme, overseen by the Olympic Refuge Foundation (ORF).

Created in 2017, ORF's mission is to use sport to promote health, well-being, gender equality, integration, youth development, education, social inclusion, and peace. In addition to the Refugee Athlete Scholarship, the foundation runs programmes in 10 refugee-hosting nations including Turkey, Jordan, Bangladesh, Uganda, Kenya, and Colombia.

At the end of 2022, 108.4 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations and events seriously disturbing public order, according to UNHCR.

This represents an increase of 19 million people compared to the end of 2021 – more than the populations of Ecuador, the Netherlands or Somalia. It is also the largest ever increase between years according to UNHCR’s statistics on forced displacement. 

International Olympic Committee President, Thomas Bach, said the refugees’ participation "demonstrates the human potential of resilience and excellence" and he added: "This will send a message of hope to the more than 100 million displaced people around the world. At the same time, you will make billions of people around the world aware of the magnitude of the refugee crisis."  - PA