2 Syrian Swimmers Among 10 Members of Refugee Olympic Team

The first-ever Olympic team for refugee athletes will feature two swimmers among 10 athletes competing in Rio this summer.

Rami Anis and Yusra Mardini are both listed on the Refugee Olympic Team roster released by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) today.

Anis is the Syrian record-holder in the 50 flly, but now lives and trains in Belgium, according to the IOC release.

Mardini represented Syria at the 2012 Short Course World Championships, and also holds the short course 400 free record for Syria.

She now resides in Germany.

The refugee team is a new addition to the 2016 Olympics, allowing swimmers struggling as a result of the world refugee crisis to compete in the Olympics under a new banner. The IOC will outfit the team with uniforms and help athletes with travel costs, much like a typcial national federation would do.


The full IOC release:

Ten refugee athletes will act as a symbol of hope for refugees worldwide and bring global attention to the magnitude of the refugee crisis when they take part in the Olympic Games Rio 2016 this summer.

The athletes will compete for the Refugee Olympic Team (ROT) – the first of its kind – and march with the Olympic flag immediately before host nation Brazil at the Opening Ceremony. The athletes were named to the ROT today by the Executive Board (EB) of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Like all teams at the Olympic Games, the ROT will have its own entourage to meet all the required technical needs of the athletes. Olympian and former marathon world record-holder Tegla Loroupe (Kenya) was named the team’s Chef de Mission, while Isabela Mazão (Brazil), who was proposed by the UNHCR, will act as the Deputy Chef de Mission. They will lead a crew of five coaches and five other team officials.

The athletes are:

  • Rami Anis (M): Country of origin – Syria; host NOC – Belgium; sport – swimming
  • Yiech Pur Biel (M): Country of origin – South Sudan; host NOC – Kenya; sport – athletics, 800m
  • James Nyang Chiengjiek (M): Country of origin – South Sudan; host NOC – Kenya; sport – athletics, 400m
  • Yonas Kinde (M): Country of origin – Ethiopia; host NOC – Luxembourg; sport – athletics, marathon
  • Anjelina Nada Lohalith (F): Country of origin – South Sudan; host NOC – Kenya; sport – athletics, 1500m
  • Rose Nathike Lokonyen (F): Country of origin – South Sudan; host NOC – Kenya; sport – athletics, 800m
  • Paulo Amotun Lokoro (M): Country of origin – South Sudan; host NOC – Kenya; sport – athletics, 1500m
  • Yolande Bukasa Mabika (F): Country of origin – Democratic Republic of the Congo; host NOC – Brazil; sport – judo, -70kg
  • Yusra Mardini (F): Country of origin – Syria; host NOC – Germany; sport – swimming
  • Popole Misenga (M): Country of origin – Democratic Republic of the Congo; host NOC – Brazil; sport – judo, -90kg

Please find the biographies of all athletes and their entourage here.

Unveiling the composition of the team, IOC President Thomas Bach said: “These refugees have no home, no team, no flag, no national anthem. We will offer them a home in the Olympic Village together with all the athletes of the word. The Olympic anthem will be played in their honour and the Olympic flag will lead them into the Olympic Stadium. This will be a symbol of hope for all the refugees in our world, and will make the world better aware of the magnitude of this crisis. It is also a signal to the international community that refugees are our fellow human beings and are an enrichment to society. These refugee athletes will show the world that despite the unimaginable tragedies that they have faced, anyone can contribute to society through their talent, skills and strength of the human spirit.”

As part of the IOC’s pledge to aid potential elite athletes affected by the worldwide refugee crisis, NOCs around the world were asked to identify any refugee athlete with the potential to qualify for the Olympic Games Rio 2016. Such candidates could then receive funding from Olympic Solidarity to assist with their preparations and qualification efforts.

Forty-three promising candidates were initially identified. Selection of the ten athletes was based on consultation with their host National Olympic Committees (NOCs), International Federations, the UNHCR and the NOCs of their countries of origin. Nomination criteria included sporting level, official refugee status verified by the United Nations, and personal situation and background.

Earlier this year the EB approved the operational aspects surrounding the ROT:

  • The team will be housed in the Olympic Village like all the other teams;
  • The team will get its own welcome ceremony at the Olympic Village, like all other teams;
  • The team uniforms will be provided by the IOC;
  • For all official representations of the team (including possible medal ceremonies), the Olympic flag will be raised and the Olympic Anthem will be played;
  • A proper doping control process will be introduced through the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA); and
  • Olympic Solidarity will cover preparation, travel and other participation expenses for the team and will continue to support the athletes of the team after the Olympic Games;
  • The IOC will continue to support the refugee athletes even after the Olympic Games Rio 2016.

The IOC, through Olympic Solidarity and its Olympic Scholarships for Athletes programme, aims to help smaller NOCs prepare and qualify their athletes for the Olympic Games. The priority for the IOC is to focus primarily on athletes who need the assistance the most and to place them on an equal footing with their competitors from more developed regions of the world. In the lead-up to London 2012, for example, 1,264 Olympic scholarships were allocated to athletes from 171 NOCs in 21 sports. 657 ‘scholars’ eventually took part in the Games. They won a total of 72 medals.

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 also created a special fund of USD 2 million to develop relief projects through sport in collaboration with NOCs around the world. Over 15 NOCs have already made use of this fund. Details of some of the projects under way can be found here and here.

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.

For broadcast quality footage, quotes and photos of all 10 refugee athletes please visit our our broadcast platform: www.iocnewsroom.com. All Video News Releases on the IOC Newsroom are offered free of charge to all news agencies, broadcasters and online news platforms.

To learn more about the refugee athletes, check out their stories on the Official Olympic Channel on YouTube.

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8 years ago

Did these two have to make any minimum qualifying standard to compete in Rio? I haven’t been able to see much of their recent times.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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