29 athletes have been picked for the refugee team which will feature at the Tokyo Olympics. The team features Kimia Alizadeh, bronze medalist at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games who left Iran citing institutional sexism. She was the first Iranian woman to win an Olympic medal as she finished third in taekwondo at the tender age of 18. Alizadeh is now based in Germany after she defected from Iran.
The team was selected by the International Olympic Committee on Tuesday. The names were drawn from 55 athletes who fled their home countries and got scholarships to train for the games in a new home country. The athletes will compete in swimming, athletics, badminton, boxing, canoeing, cycling, judo, karate, shooting, taekwondo, weightlifting, and wrestling.
Refugee team debuted at the Rio Olympics 2016
It was at the Rio Games that the refugee team debuted in the quadrennial event and featured 10 athletes. The 29 athletes who will feature in Tokyo are originally from Afghanistan, Cameroon, Congo, Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Iraq, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela. Nine from Syria is the most from any country.
The team will be managed in Tokyo by officials from the IOC and the United Nations’ Geneva-based refugee agency, the UNHCR. “Surviving war, persecution and the anxiety of exile already makes them extraordinary people,” UNHCR High Commissioner Filippo Grandi said in a statement, “but the fact that they now also excel as athletes on the world stage fills me with immense pride.”
IOC president Thomas Bach hailed the athletes as an integral part of the community as he announced their selection. “You are an integral part of our Olympic community, and we welcome you with open arms,” Bach told the athletes adding they would “send a powerful message of solidarity, resilience and hope to the world.”