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Rediff.com  » Sports » Refugee team to take part at Tokyo 2020 Olympics: IOC

Refugee team to take part at Tokyo 2020 Olympics: IOC

October 10, 2018 11:34 IST

Members of the Olympic refugee team pose in front of Christ the Redeemer

IMAGE: Members of the Olympic refugee team pose in front of Christ the Redeemer during the 2016 Rio Olympics (Image used for representational purposes). Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

Refugees will take part in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Tuesday said it would form a refugee team for the second consecutive Summer Games.

IOC President Thomas Bach asked members of the Olympic body at its session in Buenos Aires to support the creation of a refugee team, along the lines of the one that competed at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. The members responded with applause.

 

"So you have created the refugee Olympic team, Tokyo 2020," Bach said.

The German said the IOC had already identified a pool of more than 50 refugee athletes and it was necessary to keep the world aware of the plight of the tens of millions of refugees around the world.

"There is one unfortunate reason for the creation of this team," Bach told a news conference. "This is the fact that the reasons we created the first ever team still persist. We have altogether 68.5 million refugees in this world."

"Through sport we want to make a contribution to keep the world aware of this problem and this challenge and that it does not disappear from the conscience of the world, and send another signal of hope to these refugees."

There were no details yet on the final size or makeup of the team but Bach said the pool of potential athletes for the team could grow more.

"Last time (for Rio) we were under very high time pressure. Now we have two years. We have already taken precaution... and we have a pool of athletes in place. Already now we're supporting 51 or 52 refugee athletes who we have identified," Bach said.

"This pool can still grow in the run-up to Tokyo 2020. It is too early to say how many will finally make it."

The IOC unveiled its first team of refugees in an effort to raise awareness of the issue and it was one of the feel-good stories of the Rio Olympics.

The 10-member team from Syria, Congo, Ethiopia and South Sudan hogged the spotlight after marching as the penultimate team before host nation Brazil in the Opening Ceremony at the Olympic stadium.

The athletes took part in athletics, swimming and judo.

The IOC has continued supporting these athletes, some of whom attended the IOC session in the Argentine capital.

The IOC had said last year it was considering forming such a team again for the Tokyo Games and has continued to support the athletes who took part in Rio.

"I am delighted that this tradition is to continue in Tokyo," said United Nations High Commissioner for refugees Filippo Grandi in a statement.

"Giving these exceptional young people the opportunity to compete at the very highest levels is admirable."

IOC elects nine new members but snubs FIFA and IAAF again

The International Olympic Committee admitted nine new members on Tuesday but snubbed both soccer's FIFA and athletics' IAAF again as both have struggled with widespread corruption and doping scandals.

Greece, host of the first modern games, was also left out in the cold for the third year running, in the wake of bitter disputes there over control of the national Olympic committee.

Morinari Watanabe and Andrew Parsons, the heads of the international gymnastics federation FIG and International Paralympic Committee (IPC) respectively, were among those to join the committee.

They were joined by Italian Olympic Committee President Giovanni Malago, whose country is bidding for the 2026 winter Games.

The other IOC inductees were senior national Olympic committee members Samira Ashgari from Afghanistan, Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck from Bhutan, Daina Gudzineviciute from Lithuania, Camilo Perez Lopez Moreira from Paraguay, Felicite Rwemarika from Rwanda and William Blick from Uganda.

While membership of the IOC for the heads of soccer and athletics, two of the world's largest federations, was seen as almost automatic for years, the committee did not propose FIFA President Gianni Infantino or IAAF President Sebastian Coe this time.

Despite presiding over two of the most popular sports in the world, FIFA and the IAAF have been embroiled in a range of scandals in recent years.

The IOC also snubbed Greece - host of the first modern Games - for the third year running, leaving it without a representative since 2015.

Greece, which provided the first President of the IOC in 1894 and stages the Games' torch-lighting ceremony on the ancient site of Olympia, had at least one IOC member continuously from 1894 to 2015.

But infighting in recent years over who runs the national Olympic committee as well as a complete lack of international lobbying by the country are seen as the main reasons for it not being on the IOC since 2015.

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