What Is the Refugee Olympic Team? Athletes at Tokyo Games and a Brief History

The Refugee Olympic Team at the Tokyo Games, which includes 29 refugee athletes across 12 different sports, aims to send "a powerful message of solidarity and hope" to the world, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said.

The Refugee Olympic Team will compete under the Olympic flag. The sports represented across the team include athletics, badminton, boxing, canoeing, cycling, judo, karate, taekwondo, shooting, swimming, weightlifting and wrestling.

During the opening ceremony of the Olympics, the refugee athletes will march second, immediately after Greece, in the parade, "sending a strong message of inclusion, and showing the world the strength of the human spirit," the IOC said in a statement in early June.

Who is on the Refugee Olympic Team?

At this year's Games, the Refugee Olympic Team (whose official acronym is EOR, based on the French translation équipe olympique des réfugiés), consists of 25 athletes from 11 countries who have been living and training in 13 host countries.

An additional four athletes from the International Judo Federation Refugee Project, who will also compete in the first-ever Olympic judo mixed team event, complete the lineup.

Afghan refugee road cyclist Masomah Ali Zada.
Afghan refugee road cyclist Masomah Ali Zada poses wearing a shirt adorned with the Olympic Rings at the World Cycling Centre in Aigle, Switzerland, on July 1 as she prepares to compete at the Tokyo Olympics. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

Below is the full list of 29 athletes on the Refugee Olympic Team:

  • Abdullah Sediqi, taekwondo (under 68kg)
  • Ahmad Badreddin Wais, cycling (time trial)
  • Aker Al Obaidi, wrestling (Greco-Roman, under 67kg)
  • Alaa Maso, swimming (freestyle 50m)
  • Angelina Nadai Lohalith OLY, athletics (1500m)
  • Aram Mahmoud, badminton (singles)
  • Cyrille Fagat Tchatchet II, weightlifting (under 96kg)
  • Dina Pouryounes Langeroudi, taekwondo (under 49kg)
  • Dorian Keletela, athletics (100m)
  • Eldric Sella Rodriguez, boxing (under 75kg)
  • Hamoon Derafshipour, Karate (under 67kg)
  • Jamal Abdelmaji Eisa, athletics (5,000m)
  • James Nyang Chiengjiek OLY, athletics (400m)
  • Kimia Alizadeh OLY, taekwondo (under 57kg)
  • Luna Solomon, shooting (air rifle 10m)
  • Masomah Ali Zada, cycling (time trial)
  • Paulo Amotun Lokoro OLY, athletics (1,500m)
  • Popole Misenga OLY, judo (under 90kg and mixed team)
  • Rose Nathike Likonyen OLY, athletics (800m)
  • Saeid Fazloula, canoeing (500m)
  • Sanda Aldass, judo (under 57kg)
  • Tachlowini Gabriyesos, athletics (marathon)
  • Wael Shueb, karate (kata)
  • Wessam Salamana OLY, boxing (under 57kg)
  • Yusra Mardini, OLY swimming (100m butterfly and freestyle)
  • Ahmad Alikaj, judo (mixed team)
  • Javad Mahjoub, judo (mixed team)
  • Muna Dahouk, judo (mixed team)
  • Nigara Shaheen, judo (mixed team)

How Were the Athletes Selected for the Team?

The IOC said the team members were selected from the refugee athletes currently supported by the IOC via the Olympic Scholarships for Refugee Athletes program. The program awards grants to 56 eligible athletes, providing financial support to enable them to train for the Olympic Games, "while continuing their sporting career and building for their future," according to the IOC.

The IOC explained the selection was based on several criteria including "first and foremost" the athlete's sporting performance as well their refugee status as confirmed by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

"Personal background, as well as a balanced representativity in terms of sport, gender and regions, were also considered," the IOC said.

The conditions of participation as well as the team selection process was established by Olympic Solidarity, the body providing assistance to National Olympic Committees (NOCs), in collaboration with the UNHCR, NOCs and International Federations, the IOC noted.

Why Is There a Refugee Olympics Team?

The EOR aims to send a message of hope and solidarity as well as raise awareness of "the plight of over 80 million displaced people" across the globe, the IOC explained.

IOC president Thomas Bach said in early June: "When you, the IOC Refugee Olympic Team and the athletes from the National Olympic Committees from all over the globe, finally come together in Tokyo on July 23, it will send a powerful message of solidarity, resilience and hope to the world."

UNHCR High Commissioner Filippo Grandi also said in June: "Surviving war, persecution and the anxiety of exile already makes them extraordinary people, but the fact that they now also excel as athletes on the world stage fills me with immense pride.

"It shows what is possible when refugees are given the opportunity to make the most of their potential," Grandi added.

The first-ever Refugee Olympic Team, which had 10 athletes, took part in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Following its success, in 2018 the IOC decided there would be a Refugee Olympic Team at the Tokyo Games.

The success of the 2016 Refugee Olympic Team also saw the launch of the Olympic Refuge Foundation (ORF) in September 2017, to support "the protection, development and empowerment of displaced young people through sport 365 days a year across the globe," the IOC stated.

Afghan-born refugee and karate athlete Asif Sultani.
Afghan-born refugee and karate competitor Asif Sultani pictured in May training on the outskirts of Sydney as he competes for a place on the Refugee Olympic Team at the Tokyo Olympics in July. Saeed Khan/AFP via Getty Images