There are many things icky about international sports competitions, particularly the greed of the people at the top of the organizations that run them. FIFA is a disaster and the IOC isn’t much better. But at least there is a glimmer of hope from the latter, for one day.
A team of refugees from many different nations will compete at the games in Rio this August, according to IOC President Thomas Bach. He hopes that it will send a “message of hope” across the world, particularly in a time of great struggle and strife for migrants.
“The IOC has decided to invite the highest-qualified refugee athletes to the Olympic Games in Rio,” Bach said at the Eleonas camp in Athens, Greece, a facility housing hundreds of migrants hoping to find passage to northern Europe. “We want to send a message of hope and confidence to the refugees and turn the attention of the world to the fate and problem of the 60 million refugees of the world,”
The team will be comprised of five to 10 athletes, walk into the Opening Ceremony under its own flag and compete in its own right and stay in the Olympic Village as all other athletes will do. Bach hinted in December that he had found three athletes able to qualify for the games: A Syrian swimmer training in Germany, an Iranian Taekwondo athlete in Belgium and Congolese Judoka who found refuge in Brazil. He’s added Farhad Takallo, an Iranian shooting champion found at the refugee camp.
In another gesture of goodwill, the Olympic Torch will make it’s way through the refugee camp on its journey to Rio, and refugees will have a chance to carry the flame.
Now, let’s just hope they don’t get sick from the Zika virus or the polluted water.