In Pictures
Refugee Olympic Team: Highlighting the voice of millions at Tokyo
Squad of 29 refugees trains in Qatar ahead of competing in 12 sports at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
The Tokyo 2020 refugee athletes will take part in 12 sports: athletics, badminton, boxing, canoeing, road cycling, judo, karate, shooting, swimming, taekwondo, weightlifting, and wrestling. [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]
By Showkat Shafi and Faras Ghani
14 Jul 2021
Doha, Qatar – Full of enthusiasm, passion and excitement, the Refugee Olympic Team has been training hard in the Qatari capital of Doha in preparation for Tokyo 2020.
The 29-member squad, which will compete across 12 sports at Tokyo 2020, will become the second of its kind to take part in the Olympics after its debut at Rio 2016.
In 2016, after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board approved the team’s creation, 10 athletes were selected to take part in the 2016 Olympic Games.
All athletes who were considered had received United Nations refugee status.
A refugee, according to the UNHCR, is “someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence”.
“We are honoured to have the opportunity to make a small contribution to the inspiring journey of the Refugee Olympic Team,” Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) President Sheikh Joaan Bin Hamad Al Thani, said at Aspire Zone in Doha on Tuesday.
“The team’s performances will not just inspire billions of people but will also raise awareness about the scale of the global refugee crisis.”
However, the IOC said on Wednesday the squad has been forced to delay its departure to Japan following a positive COVID-19 case by a team official.
“As a consequence, it was decided that the team would currently not travel to Tokyo and will continue their training in Doha while being tested daily,” the IOC said in a statement.
Yusra Mardini, who grew up near the Syrian capital Damascus, will be taking part in her second Olympics with the team. [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]
According to the UN, at the end of 2020, there were 26.4 million refugees across the world, about half of whom are under the age of 18. [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]
While a few athletes have pulled out of the Olympics over COVID concerns, Dina Pouryounes Langeroudi, who fled Iran in 2015, says being at Tokyo 2020 will be a dream come true. “I’m so happy that I’m going to the Olympics. I hope everybody stays healthy but to me, COVID is not a concern,” she told Al Jazeera. [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]
Nigara Shaheen, whose family moved from Afghanistan to Pakistan when she was just six months old, will be part of the judo team. “I love judo,” she told Al Jazeera. “Throughout the struggles of my life, I think the only safe haven and mental calmness for me was sport.” [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]
Tachlowini Gabriyesos fled Eritrea at the age of 12. He will compete in the men’s marathon at Tokyo 2020. [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]
Popole Misenga is one of two members of the team that won a heat or contest at Rio 2016. Misenga was the team’s flagbearer at the closing ceremony and won his opening judo bout in Rio. [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) says the refugee team is “a symbol of hope for refugees worldwide, serving to increase global knowledge and attention of the scale of the international refugee crisis”. [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]
President of the QOC, Sheikh Joaan, was at Aspire Zone to meet the team on the final day of the training camp. “We believe strongly in the role sport can play in empowering people and bringing hope at times of great hardship,” he told the athletes. [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]
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