IOC awards Olympic Cup to UNHCR

10 Jan 2020
IOC News Press Release

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) today awarded the Olympic Cup 2019 to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

The award ceremony took place at the beginning of the IOC Session that is meeting today in Lausanne during the Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020, which officially opened yesterday.

The Olympic Cup was presented to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.

The IOC President, Thomas Bach, said: “114 years ago, our founder, Pierre de Coubertin, created a unique award – the Olympic Cup – to honour an institution or organisation that has a proven record of promoting the ideals of the Olympic Movement. Today we are awarding the Olympic Cup for 2019 to UNHCR, one of the long-standing UN partners of the IOC and the Olympic Movement. UNHCR has celebrated the power of sport for refugees’ protection and well-being and has been an advocate for our Olympic values. Without UNHCR we could not have created the IOC Refugee Olympic Team”.

“The commitment of the IOC and the entire Olympic Movement to support refugees is based on our fundamental belief in the power of sport to make the world a better place,” the IOC President continued. “UNHCR shares our belief in sport as a force for good in the world. For children and youth uprooted by war or persecution, sport is much more than a leisure activity. It is an opportunity to be included and protected – a chance to heal, develop and grow,” he stressed.

For the last 25 years, the IOC and UNHCR have enjoyed a strong partnership that has seen the implementation of sports projects for refugees in more than 50 countries. Using sport as a tool for protection and promotion of youth development, education, social integration and well-being, these actions have brought hope and healing to refugee populations in many camps and settlements around the world. Sports programmes have also proven to be a catalyst for empowering displaced communities, helping to strengthen and to foster peaceful relationships and co-existence with host communities.

Accepting the award, Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said: “This award is a tribute I want to share with all my colleagues around the world who have gone above and beyond to bring opportunities to displaced people through sport, even in the most challenging circumstances.

“And, of course, it is a tribute to the displaced people and communities that UNHCR serves, who understand the transformative power of sport and have seized the opportunities that have been offered to them.”

UNHCR supported the creation of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team that competed for the first time at the Olympic Games Rio 2016. The team inspired the world with the strength of their human spirit. The IOC, supported by UNHCR, is currently working with the 50 Refugee Athlete Scholarship Holders who are vying to qualify and be part of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team Tokyo 2020. The selection of the Team will be announced in June.

UNHCR is also a trusted partner of the Olympic Refuge Foundation (ORF), which was officially launched by the IOC in September 2017. With the aim of ensuring that one million forcibly displaced young people have access to safe sport by 2024, the ORF works in close collaboration with UNHCR and other partners to create safe, basic and accessible sports facilities and programmes for young refugees, forcibly displaced young people and their host communities.

Last month, at the first ever Global Refugee Forum, the IOC announced that a Sport Coalition consisting of over 80 partners – from governments to National Olympic Committees, International Sports Federations, clubs, associations and civil society organisations – had expressed its commitment to supporting refugees through sport. This unprecedented global initiative, coordinated by the ORF, has made three important pledges.

The Olympic Cup is awarded annually by the IOC to an institution or association in recognition of its work to actively develop the Olympic Movement. It was created by the founder of the modern Olympic Movement, Pierre de Coubertin, in 1906.


The International Olympic Committee is a not-for-profit independent international organisation made up of volunteers, which is committed to building a better world through sport. It redistributes more than 90 per cent of its income to the wider sporting movement, which means that every day the equivalent of 3.4 million US dollars goes to help athletes and sports organisations at all levels around the world.


For more information, please contact the IOC Media Relations Team:
Tel: +41 21 621 6000, email:, or visit our web site at

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, leads international action to protect people forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution. We deliver life-saving assistance such as shelter, food and water, help safeguard fundamental human rights, and develop solutions that ensure people have a safe place to call home where they can build a better future. We also work to ensure that stateless people are granted a nationality.

For more information about UNHCR, please visit or contact:   Andrej Mahecic, Senior Communications Officer, +41 22 739 8347,

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