New Delhi: For the first time in Olympic history a team of refugees has been allowed to participate in the upcoming Olympic Games Rio 2016.
The Refugee Olympic Team (ROT) consists of ten players who will participate under the Olympic flag as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) formed the unique team for athletes that have fled conflict-riven countries and regions.
This unique team includes five runners from South Sudan, two swimmers from Syria, two judokas from the Democratic Republic of Congo and a marathon runner from Ethiopia. Accompanying the team are five coaches and five officials.
“It’s a special team. It’s not an easy team,” said Tegla Loroupe, the ROT’s chef de mission. “Although their country is broken, the spirit of unity and of Olympism is always with them.”
Yusra Mardini a Syrian swimmer, who now resides in Berlin, Germany, said that bearing the Olympic flag in the upcoming Rio Games is a life-changing opportunity. Mardini who will participate in the women’s 100m butterfly and 100m freestyle swimming in Rio 2016, on Saturday also said, “It’s absolutely an honour for me to compete in Olympics. It’s all athletes’ dream.”
A fellow Syrian of Yusra, Rami Anis admitted that it was a little bit sad not to be able to compete under his country’s flag but also added that he was very proud to compete in the ROT.
ROT’s chef de mission Tegla Loroup called the team “a special team.” Talking about how sports can bring changes to a sportsperson’s life, the former marathon world record holder of Kenya said, “I was able to open my eyes through sports and made to have faith in others. I was also through sports to become successful.”
Speaking about her team members Tegla said, “It is sports that will give them wisdom and confidence to fight for life and not to lose hope.”
IOC president Thomas Bach first presented the idea of forming a refugee team last October in his presentation in the headquarters of the United Nations, saying the initiative would send a powerful message of hope to asylum seekers around the world.
“It is a signal to the international community that refugees are our fellow human beings and are an enrichment to society,” he said. 
The ten athletes who finally made it to the Rio Games were chosen from a pool of 43 in early June.  They include swimmer Yusra Mardini (18) from Syria, Judokas Popole Misenga and Yolande Makiba from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rami Anis another swimmer from Syria, Ethiopian marathon runner Yonas Kinde, and five middle-distance runners from South Sudan — James Chiengjiek, Yiech Biel, Paulo Lokoro, Rose Lokonyen and Anjelina Lohalith.
On Saturday (30 July), seven of the ten athletes that make up the team of refugees visited the most famous monument in Brazil — Christ the Redeemer, the most famous of all Brazilian postcard images. 
Syrian swimmer Yusra Mardini termed it a ‘breathtaking’ experience.
(With inputs from IANS)

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