First refugee Olympic team makes history

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Refugee Olympic Team Makes History

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

On August 5th, athletes from around the world will march under the flag of their home country at the start of the 2016 Olympics. Ten athletes, however,  will not bear their home country’s flag.

These athletes are refugees. People who have fled war and persecution in their home countries.

Yiech Pur Biel, a South Sudan athlete, says the team has a simple goal for this year's games.

"We want to show the world that we can do everything any human being can do, because this is the goal for us and for millions of refugees," Pur Biel told German news outlet Deutsche Welle.

The International Olympic Committee handpicked refugees from around the world to highlight the refugee crisis plaguing the world today. The refugee Olympic team will feature athletes from Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Ethiopia. This is the first time in history that there will be a refugee team competing in the Olympics.

The U.N. estimates that over 65 million people are displaced from their homes, over 21 million of them are refugees. This is the highest level of refugees ever recorded in history.

Thomas Bach, the president of the IOC believes "these refugees athletes will show the world that despite the unimaginable tragedies that they have faced, anyone can contribute to society through their talent, skills and strength of the human spirit."

Aside from being incredible runners, swimmers and fighters, these athletes carry incredibly powerful stories. Syrian swimmer, 18-year-old Yusra Mardini, used her swimming skills to help  save more than a dozen refugees from drowning in the Mediterranean. When their overloaded boat broke down as they fled to Greece, Mardini helped swim the boat to shore.

In an interview with the New York Times, Mardini explained how she has achieved her dreams.

“Crying in the corner, that’s just not me,” she said.

The Olympic opening ceremony will be held on Friday, August 5th in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.