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Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has declared that a team of refugees will compete in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this summer, under the unified Olympic flag.
The IOC Executive Board has given full approval to the team, which is called the Team of Refugee Olympic Athletes (ROA). The Olympians were chosen based on a set of specific criteria, including existing sporting ability and achievement, official United Nations-verified refugee status and personal situation and background. There are currently 43 potential competitors being trialled, and the final team will consist of between 5-10 competitors.
“By welcoming the team of Refugee Olympic Athletes to the Olympic Games Rio 2016, we want to send a message of hope for all refugees in our world,” IOC President Thomas Bach said. “Having no national team to belong to, having no flag to march behind, having no national anthem to be played, these refugees will be welcomed to the Olympic Games with the Olympic flag and with the Olympic anthem. They will have a home together with all the other 11,000 athletes from 206 National Olympic Committees in the Olympic Village.”
The sporting spirit being displayed by Bach and the IOC is something admirable and heart-warming, giving a sense of hope to a group of people who have suffered indescribable hardship within the last year.
The team will be included in all aspects of the proceedings, being housed alongside the rest of the athletes, and being offered equal treatment on all levels by the IOC for the duration of the Games, which begin in August.