UN hails announcement of refugee team in Olympics

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United Nation, June 4 (IANS) The United Nations refugee agency has welcomed the announcement by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that refugees will compete as a team in the upcoming 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The team includes two Syrian swimmers, two judokas from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and six runners from Ethiopia and South Sudan, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a press release on Friday, Xinhua news agency reported.

All of the members of the team have fled violence and persecution in their countries and sought refuge in places as wide-ranging as Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Kenya and Brazil, said the press release.

The first-ever refugee team will enter the opening ceremony in the Maracana Stadium before the host Brazil and under the Olympic flag. Throughout the Games, they will be treated as any other team, but will have expenses paid by the IOC.

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The 2016 Summer Olympics is a major international multi-sport event in the tradition of the Olympic Games due to take place in Brazil on Aug. 5 to 21.

“We are very inspired by the Refugee Olympic Athletes team – having had their sporting careers interrupted, these high-level refugee athletes will finally have the chance to pursue their dreams,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

“Their participation in the Olympics is a tribute to the courage and perseverance of all refugees in overcoming adversity and building a better future for themselves and their families. UNHCR stands with them and with all refugees,” he said.

“The initiative to send a refugee team to the Rio Games is unprecedented and sends a strong message of support and hope for refugees worldwide,” UNHCR said.

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