Refugees Get Their Own Team at Olympics
Athletes come from South Sudan, Syria, Congo, and Ethiopia
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 3, 2016 1:13 PM CDT
Yusra Mardini from Syria, who helped save a sinking raft of Syrian refugees, swims during a training session in Germany. She was named to the Olympics' first-ever refugee team.   (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, file)

(Newser) – Ten refugee athletes from Africa and the Middle East were selected Friday to compete under the Olympic flag at the Rio de Janeiro Games in what the IOC said represents a "symbol of hope" for migrants and refugees around the world, the AP reports. The members of the first-ever Olympic refugee team include athletes from South Sudan, Syria, Congo, and Ethiopia who will compete in track and field, swimming, and judo. "We're convinced this refugee Olympic team can send a symbol of hope to all refugees in the world," says IOC president Thomas Bach. "It is also a signal to the international community that refugees are our fellow human beings and are an enrichment to society."

The team, selected from an initial pool of 43 candidates, will be overseen by Kenya's Tegla Loroupe, the former women's marathon world record-holder. Officially called the Refugee Olympic Team, the athletes will walk into the opening ceremony just ahead of the huge team from Brazil, the host nation that marches last in the parade of athletes from more than 200 countries. "These refugees have no home, no team, no flag, no national anthem," Bach said. "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." One of the athletes, a teenage swimmer from Syria, generated heavy media attention when she and her sister jumped into the water and helped guide a sinking raft of refugees to the Greek island of Lesbos.