By Lobsang Tenchoe
DHARAMSALA, August 6: The first ever summer Olympics featuring a refugee Olympic team kicked off with a spectacular opening ceremony in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro.
The 31st Olympic games, commonly known as Rio 2016, began on August 5 and will run till August 21, in Brazil, the first South American Nation to host the summer Olympic games.
Rio lit up to a scintillating opening ceremony showcasing Brazil’s rich history and culture. Themed ‘A new world’, Rio 2016 has representatives from 205 nations and two independent teams participating in the international multi sporting event.
Winning the hearts of the awestruck spectators, the debutant refugee Olympic team, representing not a country but 65 million refugees displaced by war and persecution marched with the Olympic flag immediately before the host nation, Brazil during the opening ceremony and received the warmest welcome of the evening.
The team consists of ten athletes, aged 18 to 26, who fled the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Syria. The team selected from 43 candidates, will take part in short, medium and long distance running, swimming and judokas.
In a bid to bring global attention to the magnitude of the worldwide refugee crisis and to send a message of hope to the millions of refugees around the globe, the refugee team was inducted into Rio 2016.
“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 world. The Olympic anthem will be played in their honor and the Olympic flag will lead them into the Olympic Stadium,” The Guardian quoted IOC president Thomas Bach as saying in its report, August 5.
“We are not only refugees, we are like every one in the world.,” Qz.com quoted Yusra Mardini, an 18-yr-old swimmer from Syria who helped drag a sinking boat full of fellow refugees to safety last year, as saying in its report, August 5.
Athletes of the refugee Olympic teams are swimmers, Mardini and Rami Anis from Syri; runners, Yiech Pur Biel, Paulo Amotun Lokoro, Anjelina Nadai Lohalith, James Nyang Chiengjiek, Yonas Kinde, and Rose Nathike Lokonyen, and in judokas, Yolande Bukasa Mabika and Popole Misenga.
Mardini will be the first of the refugee delegation to compete on Aug 6 and Yonas Kinde will be the last, competing in marathon.