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Up to 10 athletes to represent Team Refugee at Rio Olympics

‘We want to send a message of hope,’ says IOC president Thomas Bach.

INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE (IOC) president Thomas Bach said the inclusion of up to 10 refugees in the Rio Games can send a message of hope for others who have fled their country.

The Executive Board of the IOC has announced that between five and 10 athletes will represent Team Refugee Olympic Athletes (Team ROA) in Brazil this year.

Forty-three candidates have been picked out as contenders to compete for Team ROA, who will march behind the Olympic flag in front of host team Brazil at the Opening Ceremony.

“The final number of athletes that would make up this team depends of qualification criteria,” said Bach.

“I can just give you my feeling, but I believe that this team could feature between five and 10 athletes.

“We have all been touched by the magnitude of this refugee crisis. By welcoming this team, we want to send a message of hope to all the refugees in the world.”

The IOC had already identified in December three athletes who had fled their home countries and whose skills could be of a high enough standard to feature in the 2016 Olympics.

They were a Syrian swimmer based in Germany, a judoka from the Democratic Republic of Congo who was living in Brazil and an Iranian taekwondo fighter training in Belgium.

He added: “By welcoming the team of Refugee Olympic Athletes to the Olympic Games Rio 2016, we want to send a message of hope for all refugees in our world.

Having no national team to belong to, having no flag to march behind, having no national anthem to be played, these refugee athletes will be welcomed to the Olympic Games with the Olympic flag and with the Olympic Anthem.

“They will have a home together with all the other 11,000 athletes from 206 National Olympic Committees in the Olympic Village.”

Additional reporting by - © AFP, 2016 

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