A Team Made Up Entirely of Refugees Will Compete at the Rio Olympics

The International Olympic Committee announced Wednesday that up to 10 refugees will constitute a team that will compete like any other at the games.
March 2, 2016, 11:10pm

A team made up of refugees will compete at this year's Rio de Janeiro Olympics, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said on Wednesday.

The team, which will be called Team of Refugee Olympics Athletes (ROA), will be put together from a pool of 43 prospective Olympians who have already been identified by the IOC and supported with funds to train. Nomination criteria included sporting level, official United Nations–verified refugee status, and personal situation and background, the IOC said.

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"We have no target," Bach said when asked how many athletes would be in the team. "It depends very much on the sporting qualifications. This team may end up between five and 10 athletes, maybe."

The team will be similar — though not completely similar — to any other team at the Olympics. According to the executive board of the IOC, it will be housed with other teams and march in the Opening Ceremony in front of the host country, Brazil. Coaches, a chef, and other support staff will be appointed by the IOC, which will also provide uniforms. If any team members medal, the Olympic Anthem will be played and the Olympic flag will be raised.

"By welcoming ROA to the Olympic Games in Rio, we want to send a message of hope to all the refugees of the world," Bach said. "This team will be treated during Olympics like all the other teams. It will enjoy all the privileges like the other teams and athletes."

The athletes who are chosen for the team and the sports in which they'll compete will be named at the next IOC executive board meeting in June. The games, which have been beset by early problems ranging from dangerously polluted waterways meant to be used for events to fears over the Zika virus, will run from August 5-21.

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