IOC Session welcomes Refugee Olympic Team Tokyo 2020

The members of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team (EOR) Tokyo 2020 were welcomed today by the IOC Session. Athlete representative Yiech Pur Biel addressed the IOC Members on behalf of the team. 

Yiech Pur Biel, Athlete Representative IOC Refugee Olympic Team Tokyo 2020 IOC/Greg Martin

Biel, who competed for the first Refugee Olympic Team Rio 2016, said: “The athletes are hugely excited, and they all certainly recognise the amazing opportunity that they have been given by the IOC.”

He continued: “My experience of being part of the Refugee Olympic Team changed my life. It opened up opportunities for me, such as joining the Olympic Refuge Foundation as a Board member, becoming a Goodwill Ambassador for the UNHCR and moving to train and live in the United States of America. I would never have thought that my dreams would become a reality when living in the Kakuma refugee settlement in northern Kenya. Most importantly, I can now call myself an Olympian, which makes me proud every day.”

He went on: “We have just arrived from the welcome experience in Doha. This was the first time the Refugee Olympic Team Tokyo 2020 was brought together as one, and our main objective was to build team spirit and unity. This experience was hugely important to help the athletes realise that they will only succeed if they work together as a team. They are truly stronger together.

“As from this evening, the full team will be united again here in Tokyo. We have been welcomed with open arms by our Japanese hosts in a pre-Games training camp at Waseda University, and the Team is now looking forward to competing,” Biel concluded.

Yiech Pur Biel, Athlete Representative IOC Refugee Olympic Team Tokyo 2020 ©IOC / Greg Martin

Landing in Tokyo

On 12 July, the EOR delegation came together for the first time as a team, with 26 of the 29 athletes, 16 coaches and  11 officials participating in a Welcome Experience at the Aspire Academy in Doha, Qatar.

Most of the athletes arrived in Tokyo over the last two days, with the last group landing later on today.

Luna Solomon (shooting), Aram Mahmoud (badminton), Dina Pouryounes Langeroudi (taekwondo) and Yusra Mardini (swimming), who also competed at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, will be the first members of the EOR to compete at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, with their respective competitions beginning on 24 July.

Continuing the legacy

Created as a symbol of hope for the millions of people around the world displaced amid the global refugee crisis, IOC President Thomas Bach announced the creation of the EOR at the United Nations General Assembly in October 2015. The success of the athletes at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 inspired the decision of the IOC to include support to refugee programmes in Recommendation 11 of Olympic Agenda 2020+5.

Of the 29 athletes who form the EOR at Tokyo 2020, six also competed at Rio 2016: swimmer Yusra Mardini, judoka Popole Misenga and runners Anjelina Nadai Lohalith (1,500m), James Nyang Chiengjiek (800m), Paulo Amotun Lokoro (1,500m) and Rose Nathike Likonyen (800m).

Competing across 12 sports and from 13 host National Olympic Committees, the Team is now looking to build on the legacy created in Rio.

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