In the leadup to the Rio 2016 Olympics, Hope 103.2 caught up with Fiona de Jong, CEO of the Australian Olympic Committee, about a special new addition to the Games: Team Refugee, an official team of 10 refugees from nations around the world.
Fiona said the IOC had established the team to bring attention to the world’s refugee crisis, and that Australian officials will be providing Team Refugee with media support.
“The International Olympic Committee saw the [refugee] crisis affecting now 21 million people worldwide [of a total 65 million displaced people]…and thought, ‘we can’t ignore this challenge, we can help shine a spotlight on the worldwide refugee crisis’,” she told the Hope Breakfast crew.
Ms DeJong said having such a team will also give hope to refugees and a chance to fulfil their ambitions just like other athletes, and that the selection process was not easy.
“They had to meet the international sporting federation qualification systems,” Ms DeJong said. “They also had to be verified as official refugee status by the United Nations. They’re genuine athletes.”
Team Refugee will march into the opening ceremony just ahead of the host nation, Brazil.
“So often they form really rich and strong friendships off the field. And I don’t think it’ll be any different for these 10 athletes.”
“They’ll be marching behind the Olympic flag, and if they win a medal, the Olympic Anthem will be played,” Ms DeJong explained. “The intention is very much for them to have a team. It’s important that their home becomes the Olympic Village and they are amongst all the athletes of the world in that special place.”
She added that the Olympics would also be a place for them to form close friendships.
“One of the beautiful things about the Olympics is that [the athletes are] competitors on the field of play, but so often they form really rich and strong friendships off the field. And I don’t think it’ll be any different for these 10 athletes [although] people might be sensitive to their personal tragedies and struggles that they’ve had to endure in order to get to the Games.”