“Sport can no longer be considered a luxury within any society but is rather an important investment in the present and future.” (UNOSDP)
Over the past few weeks the world has seen more than 10,000 athletes, representing 207 nations, compete in 31 sports in Brazil, with 306 sets of medals awarded over the course of the Games (BBC). Milestones were made and records broken, but even more remarkable is that for the first time in history, a Refugee Olympic Team has competed, representing more than 21 million refugees worldwide.
Increasingly, sport has been recognized as a useful tool in development and humanitarian efforts as it “has a unique power to attract, mobilize and inspire. By its very nature, sport is about participation. It is about inclusion and citizenship”(UNOSDP). Through the Olympics, the world has the opportunity to come together to “build a peaceful and better world”(UN Resolution 66/5).
At a time where an unprecedented 65.3 million people have been forced from their homes and 10 million people are currently stateless and have been denied a nationality and access to basic human rights, the welcoming of an Olympic team of refugees is more important than ever before.
The Refugee Olympic Team consists of 10 athletes from 4 countries each with a unique story to share – helping to shed light on the strength and resilience of all refugees around the globe. These athletes have helped build hope for millions of people around the world who have incredible aspirations for their future, but who face extreme and unimaginable barriers getting there.
However, not only have these athletes helped foster hope in others, their experience at the Olympics has given them hope as well. As Yusra Mardini expressed, being apart of this team has helped “to give us hope that we are still humans. We are not only refugees; we are like everyone in the world… We do not have parents or relatives in our lives, but now we have a sense of belonging to a community”.
For one of the first times, we see that the world can exist without borders. That we can come together not as individuals under a nation, but as humans in the interest of building hope and resilience. And even more, this team has solidified the belief that community is not limited by geographical or relative boundaries, it exists in all human connection.
Meet the first ever Refugee Olympic Team here: