Athletes that become refugees are usually stuck in an unfair limbo. They can’t compete for the country they’ve fled as a result of war or persecution, but have yet to secure citizenship elsewhere. That’s finally about to change.
For the first time, a team of refugees will compete at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has picked out 43 athletes to compete for a team of refugees who will compete under the Olympic flag and the Olympic anthem.
The refugee athletes will get their own welcome ceremony at the Olympic Village and will housed like all the other teams. The IOC will provide their uniforms and entourage to meet their technical needs. “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,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a statement.
Of those 43 prospective athletes, the IOC expects between five and 10 to make it to the final team. The participants will be named in June.
While this has never happened with an entire sanctioned team, athletes have competed under the Olympic flag in the past. In 1992, individual Yugoslav athletes took part as independents during the summer Olympics. In 2012, one athlete from South Sudan competed as an independent.