Refugee athletes on the road to Rio

A trio of athletes who have fled their home countries have already been identified as potential Olympic contenders for next year’s Games in Rio de Janeiro as part of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s pledge to aid potential elite athletes affected by the worldwide refugee crisis.


With the help of National Olympic Committees (NOCs), the IOC is in the process of identifying a number of athletes living in forced displacement. Through its Olympic Solidarity programmes, the IOC aims to help these individuals to take part in the Olympic Games Rio de Janeiro 2016.

Three promising athletes have already been identified, including a female swimmer from Syria presently in Germany; a male Congolese judoka in Brazil; and a female Iranian taekwondo fighter now in Belgium. In cooperation with the relevant International Federations (IFs), the IOC is now evaluating their athletic abilities to determine whether they could qualify for the Games.

“The IOC will do everything it can to support these high-level athletes who find themselves in a refugee situation,” said IOC Deputy Director General and Director of NOC Relations Pere Miró. “The programme is in its early stages, but we are prepared to support these athletes with funding and training in the hope that they can realise their dream of competing at the highest level.”

As part of this effort, the IOC calls upon all IFs and NOCs to highlight further cases of top-level athletes in a refugee situation who could meet the sporting qualification criteria and potentially be eligible to take part at next summer’s Games.

In Kenya, over 20 refugee athletes are already receiving training and support from the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation (TLPF) Refugee Athletic Support programme, founded and chaired by Olympian and former marathon world record-holder Tegla Loroupe.

An emergency fund for refugee-focused programmes

Following the approval of Olympic Agenda 2020, the IOC’s strategic roadmap for the future of the Olympic Movement, and in light of the current global refugee crisis, the IOC has created a special fund of USD 2 million to develop relief projects through sport in collaboration with NOCs around the world. The fund itself is made up of USD 1 million from the IOC and a further USD 1 million from Olympic Solidarity. 

Over 15 NOCs have already made use of this fund. Details of some of the projects under way can be found here and here.

A long-standing partnership with UNHCR

The IOC already works with a number of United Nations agencies to help refugees around the world.  For the last 20 years, the IOC and UNHCR in particular have been using sport to support healing and development among young refugees in many camps and settlements around the world. They have consequently seen thousands of refugees benefit from sports programmes and equipment donated by the IOC. 

Last year, IOC Honorary President Jacques Rogge completed his first mission as Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General for Youth Refugees and Sport. With the goal of raising awareness on the conditions of youth refugees and the positive impact sport can have on their well-being, Rogge has since visited camps and completed missions in Jordan, Ethiopia and Colombia.

Read more about the IOC’s action on the ground for young refugees here


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