04 August, 2016
The Olympics is a time for sporting excellence, fitness motivation, and, ahem, marathon TV watching... but what about social justice? We're betting you've never thought of the Olympics as a moment to stand up for social inclusion - but think again!
This year, Rio 2016 takes on a new meaning... For the first time ever, the International Olympic Committee has announced that a team of ten refugees will be competing in this year's sporting events - pretty awesome news in the shadows of the current international refugee crisis.
Marking a moment in history, the team have been given a chance to compete in the Olympic Games for two reasons: first and foremost, because they have the ability to do so. And secondly, as the world's eyes are cast on this global sporting event, the team will draw attention to the largest movement of people we have seen since World War II.
A Team of Ten
A truly diverse group, the team is made up of athletes from Syria, South Sudan, The Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ethiopia, all of whom have fled their homes because of conflict or persecution.
The ten athletes are among the 65.3 million people forcibly displaced worldwide, who have often left their families, possessions and careers behind. The sponsorship they are now receiving from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), has not only given them a chance to compete at the highest level, but also to reclaim their identities as sportspeople.
One team member, Popole Misenga, stated:
'You can't let people think that because they are refugees, they have to stop doing what they do.'
Having fled war in The Democratic Republic of Congo, Popole applied for asylum in Brazil after the World Judo Championships in Rio 2013. He now lives and trains in Brazil, and wants to spread the message of hope in Rio this summer - a message that is desperately needed.
Standing Up for the Stories of 65 Million Others
As all eyes are cast on Rio, the stories of the Refugee Olympic Team will be put in the spotlight.
At a time when worldwide, 1 in every 113 people are displaced, the IOC's decision highlights the need for a coordinated approach from all walks of life to tackle a crisis which impacts every one of us.
Beyond their incredible sporting abilities, the team show that an individual story lies behind each and every person that has been caught up in this global crisis. It's these very stories that we hope will begin to challenge misconceptions, and unite the world in the need for action.
This move is pretty timely, with September 19th marking a crucial UN general assembly, and September 20th seeing a Summit hosted by President Obama, both of which aim to find solutions to the global refugee crisis.
Why not show your support and sign the UNHCR petition to show that you stand #WithRefugees here.
Team Refugee - we salute you!