The vibrant streets of Rio de Janeiro are more lively than usual this week, as new visitors arrive in the Brazilian capital in support of the 2016 Olympic Games.
The energy is different, the players are different, and most importantly, the team everyone is talking about doesn’t normally share the same flag.
The Olympic Refugee Team is a group of ten refugee athletes — six males and four females — from Syria, South Sudan, Ethiopia, the Democratic and Republic of Congo. It’s the first time in history that a team has competed under the Olympic flag, making them the team to watch at the games.
It’s the biggest sports story of the year to highlight the largest humanitarian crisis of our time.
“These refugees have no home, no team, no flag, no national anthem,” IOC president Thomas Bach said at press conference. “… These refugee athletes will show the world that despite the unimaginable tragedies that they have faced, anyone can contribute to society through their talent, skills and strength of the human spirit.”
The journey to Rio has been especially difficult for this group of athletes. They have many stories of hardship, including this heart-wrenching account of young Syrian swimmer Yusra Mardini’s journey to Lesbos in a broken dinghy.
It’s unclear how their lives will change by the end of the games or how they will finish. Their stories are an example of our shared humanity and the need for compassion — a glimmer of hope and progress on the path to Rio.
Take Action Challenge
Ahead of the Olympic Games, read more about the Olympic Refugee Team from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). You can also show your support online and discuss with other supporters online using #TeamRefugees.