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August 22, 2016

All refugee team competes in 2016 Olympic Games

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Essential question

What does it mean to be a refugee?


The first-ever Refugee Olympic Team competed in Rio de Janeiro during the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

The team included 10 athletes, including 18-year-old swimmer and Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini, who saved herself and other Syrians stranded during a dangerous crossing over the Aegean Sea.

“I hope you are going to learn from our story that you have to move on,” Mardini said in Rio de Janeiro, addressing refugees in Brazil and around the world. “And I hope that everyone will continue to achieve their dreams.”

Another athlete, 25-year-old Rami Anis, a Syrian refugee now living in Belgium, received a standing ovation after his 100 meter butterfly swim despite not advancing further. Rose Nathike Lokonyen, a runner on the Refugee Olympic Team, had to run barefoot in tryouts in her Kenyan refugee camp, yet managed to make the team.

About 65 million people throughout the world have been forced from their homes as a result of conflict.

The United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights worked with the International Olympic Commission to create the team, holding tryouts in refugee camps such as Kakuma camp in Kenya. Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said that one of the aims of the team was to counteract negative global sentiment toward refugees.

“Each refugee is an individual with a profoundly difficult personal history, and I hope that the personal histories of these 10 athletes will illustrate this important characteristic of refugees that is too often forgotten,” Grandi said.


Key terms

refugee — a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster

Warm up questions (before watching the video)
  1. Where did the 2016 Olympics take place?
  2. Did you watch this year’s Olympic Games? If so, what was your favorite event?
  3. What were some differences between this year’s Olympics and others?
Critical thinking questions (after watching the video)
  1. What was the purpose of sending a team of refugees to the Olympics this summer?
  2. What is Filippo Grandi referring to when he mentions the “negative global discussion on refugees and migrants during the Europe crisis”?
  3. What does it mean for refugees around the world to see other refugees competing on an international stage?
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