Athletes from the strife-torn nations of Syria, Iran and South Sudan form the bulk of the International Olympic Committee's Refugee Olympic Team for Tokyo 2020. On World Refugee Day on Sunday, this special Olympic team is highlighting how sports is for good and unity, two of the biggest messages that the Olympic movement tries to spread. (More Sports News)
Twenty-nine athletes from 11 nations will walk out at the brand new Japan National Stadium during the opening ceremony on July 23. With the Olympic flag in hand, the IOC's Refugee Olympic Team will be second after Greece leads the traditional parade.
There are no less that nine Syrian athletes in the Refugee Olympic Team. They will participate in a range of events from judo to swimming. Sudanese athletes will participate in long distance races among others. Africa has always produced the best of distance athletes.
Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan will also be represented. Masomah Ali Zada will take part in cycling. The 24-year-old had escaped Afghanistan and landed in France. Inspired by the Tour de France, Masomah took up the sport and is now going to pursue her Olympic dreams.
Refugee Olympic Team at the statue of Christ the Redeemer during the 2016 Rio Olympics. Photo: IOC-Getty
"In Afghanistan, men think it's unsuitable for a woman to ride a bike, and the Taliban have banned us from sport," said Masomah to France24.
"By taking part in the Olympic Games, I want to convince those who think a woman on a bicycle is inappropriate or find it strange that a Muslim woman wearing a headscarf is a cyclist that no, it's normal," Masomah has been quoted as saying.
Every athlete on this IOC Refugee Team has a special story to tell.
At the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in October 2015, confronted with the global refugee crisis that has seen millions of people in the world displaced, IOC president Thomas Bach had announced the creation of the Refugee Olympic Team – the first of its kind – to take part in the Olympic Games in Rio 2016.
The goal was to send a message of hope and solidarity to millions of refugees around the world, and inspire people from all walks of life with the strength of their spirit.
Ten months later, ten athletes representing four countries took part under the mentorship of Tegla Lorouple, including Tokyo 2020 returners Paulo Amotun Lokoro, People Misenga, Rose Nathike Lokonyen and Yusra Mardini.
Tokyo 2020 President HASHIMOTO Seiko said: "The Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee welcomes the participation of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, following its debut at the Olympic Games Rio 2016.
"The participation of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team in the Tokyo 2020 Games, which will be both a festival of sport and a celebration of peace, will draw the world's attention to the issue of refugees and further advance efforts to achieve world peace through the elimination of the wars and conflicts that cause people to flee their homeland."
Here's the full list of athletes in the Refugee Olympic Team
Abdullah Sediqi (Afghanistan) - Taekwondo (Men’s -68kg); Ahmad Baddredin Wais (Syrian Arab Republic) - Cycling (Men’s Road); Ahmad Alikaj (Syrian Arab Republic) - Judo (Men’s Mixed team); Aker Al Obaidi (Iraq) - Wrestling (Men’s Greco-Roman -67kg); Alaa Maso (Syrian Arab Republic) - Swimming (Men’s 50m Freestyle); Anjelina Nadai Lohalith (South Sudan) - Athletics (Women’s 1500m); Aram Mahmoud (Syrian Arab Republic) - Badminton (Men’s singles); Cyrille Fagat Tchatchet II (Cameroon) - Weightlifting (Men’s -96kg); Dina Pouryounes Langeroudi (Islamic Republic of Iran) - Taekwondo (Women’s -49kg); Dorian Keletela (Congo) - Athletics (Men’s 100m); Eldric Sella Rodriguez (Venezuela) - Boxing (Men’s -75kg); Hamoon Derafshipour (Islamic Republic of Iran) - Karate (Men’s -67kg); Jamal Abdelmaji Eisa Mohammed (Sudan) - Athletics (Men’s 5,000m); James Nyang Chiengjiek (South Sudan) - Athletics (Men’s 800m); Javad Majoub (Islamic Republic of Iran) - Judo (Men’s Mixed team); Kimia Alizadeh Zenozi (Islamic Republic of Iran) - Taekwondo (Women’s -57kg); Luna Solomon (Eritrea) - Shooting (Women’s Air Rifle 10m); Masomah Ali Zada (Afghanistan) - Cycling (Women’s Road); Muna Dahouk (Syrian Arab Republic) - Judo (Women’s Mixed team); Nigara Shaheen (Afghanistan) - Judo (Women’s Mixed team); Paulo Amotun Lokoro (South Sudan) - Athletics (Men’s 5,000m); Popole Misenga (DR Congo) - Judo (Men’s Mixed team); Rose Nathike Lokonyen (South Sudan) - Athletics (Women’s 800m); Saeid Fazloula (Islamic Republic of Iran) - Canoe (Men’s 500m); Sanda Aldass (Syrian Arab Republic) - Judo (Women’s Mixed Team); Tachlowini Gabriyesos (Eritrea) - Athletics (Men’s Marathon); Wael Sheub (Syrian Arab Republic) - Karate (Men’s Kata); Wessam Salamana (Syrian Arab Republic) - Boxing (Men’s -57kg); Yusra Mardini (Syrian Arab Republic) - Swimming (Women’s 100m Butterfly);
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