Of the more than 11,000 athletes competing at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, 827 of them – 465 men and 362 women – have been supported on their journey to the Games by an “Olympic Solidarity Scholarship for Athletes Tokyo 2020”.
These Olympic scholarships contribute essential funding to cover an athlete’s training and competition expenses and are available to all NOCs, but in particular those with the greatest need. For Tokyo 2020, Olympic Solidarity invested a total of USD 47 million in this programme to enable 1,836 athletes from 186 NOCs to train towards their dream of competing at the Olympic Games. But more than just helping athletes compete, these scholarships have also helped drive record success in Tokyo, with 93 NOCs winning medals so far, more than at any other previous Games.
Of these, three nations have won their first-ever Olympic medals – Turkmenistan’s Polina Guryeva won silver in women’s weightlifting; San Marino’s Alessandra Perilli won bronze and silver in trap shooting; and Burkina Faso’s Hugues Fabrice Zango won bronze in the men’s triple jump. And with the scholarship-holders who are competing in Tokyo spread across 178 NOCs and 26 Olympic sports, there has been plenty of history made elsewhere.
Among the highlights were Hidilyn Diaz winning a first-ever Olympic gold medal for the Philippines in the women’s -55kg weightlifting event; Flora Duffy winning Bermuda’s first Olympic gold medal in the women’s triathlon; Saleh Elsharabaty (taekwondo) and Abdel Rahman Almasatfa (karate) winning the second and third Olympic medals in Jordan’s history; and Yulimar Rojas becoming Venezuela’s first female Olympic champion when setting a new world record to win the women’s triple jump.
“I can’t value enough what I achieved,” said Rojas. “There are a lot of people who are around me and were a part of the achievement.
"I feel I was born with a natural talent and an ability to achieve great things. Paving the way for others to follow me, and for those who want to achieve big things, is amazing.”
During the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, Olympic Solidarity scholarship-holders have won 30 gold, 36 silver and 47 bronze medals, as well as 185 diplomas.
Powering the Refugee Olympic Team
In addition to the 1,836 individual athlete scholarships provided in the lead-up to Tokyo 2020, Olympic Solidarity also provided scholarships to fund 56 refugee athletes aiming to compete as part of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team (EOR). Of these athletes, 29 (19 men and 10 women) in 12 sports and from 13 host NOCs were selected to compete in Tokyo, and have inspired the world with their performances.
Notably, Kimia Alizadeh became the first-ever member of the EOR to win an Olympic diploma with her fifth place in the taekwondo -57kg event, while there were other impressive performances from Hamoon Derafshipour, who won two bouts in the men’s karate -67kg kumite event, and Saeid Fazloula, who reached the semi-finals of the men’s K-1 in canoe sprint.
Ahmad Badreddin Wais, who competed in the men’s individual time trial, underlined just how important the support of Olympic Solidarity has been to his participation at Tokyo 2020.
“It’s been really useful for my training as a professional cyclist, and for helping me qualify for the Refugee Olympic Team,” he said. “Switzerland is an expensive country, so the scholarship allows me to focus full time on training. Not only this, but it also teaches me how to interact with journalists and plan for competitions, which are important aspects of an athlete’s life.”
Tachlowini Gabriyesos was the last refugee athlete to compete – in Sapporo, today – finishing 16th in the marathon. Talking about this amazing performance, Tachlowini said: “Today I fulfilled my biggest dream. After all I have been through in my life, I reached this very special Olympic moment. I want to be a role model for all refugees around the world. My message to them is: keep dreaming, work hard and don’t give up. I am extremely grateful to all the people who helped me along the way, including my team-mates in the IOC Refugee Olympic Team and my coach.”
Team support grants
It’s not just individual athletes that Olympic Solidarity supports either. In Tokyo, 29 teams (15 men’s and 14 women’s) from 25 NOCs and competing in eight sports were supported on their journey to the Games with an Olympic Solidarity Team Support Grant.
This grant helped deliver a historic conclusion to the men’s hockey tournament, with Belgium winning only its second Olympic gold medal in a team sport – and its first since 1920 – and India its first medal since 1980 in an event which is hugely important to the country.
“It’s a rebirth,” said goalkeeper Sreejesh Parattu Raveendran afterwards. “It’s been 41 years. In 1980 we won the last medal and, after that, nothing. When we won [the bronze medal], this gives a boost and gives energy to the youngsters to pick up hockey and play this beautiful game.”
As Tokyo 2020 draws to a close, it is clear that Olympic Solidarity is giving more athletes than ever the opportunity not just to compete at the Olympic Games, but to win a place on the podium – which is having a knock-on effect on grassroots sport all over the world.
IOC distributed USD 5 billion during the past Olympiad for the development of sport
The IOC distributes 90 per cent of all its revenues for the benefit of the athletes and the development of sport and Paralympic sport around the globe. With this solidarity funding model, the equivalent of USD 5 billion was distributed during the past Olympiad, or USD 3.4 million per day. This financial support benefits not just a few countries or a few sports. It benefits all the athletes from all 206 NOCs, the EOR and all Olympic sports, whether popular or less popular, thereby ensuring true universality and diversity at the Olympic Games and within the Olympic community. The Olympic Solidarity programme is one of those through which the IOC’s revenue is distributed.
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