By Lawrence Oshodi SPORTS CORRESPONDENT)
Olympic refugee team’s of 29 athletes will march behind the Olympic flag at the Tokyo Games opening ceremony on Friday, according to an organizer.
The athletes will be representing the world’s 82 million displaced people.
To raise awareness of the issue, the International Olympic Committee introduced their first refugee team at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees had fled conflict and poverty in the Middle East and abroad to seek refuge in Europe.
“The Olympic refugee squad represents 82.5 million people who have been forcibly relocated or are refugees all over the world.
James Macleod, the IOC’s head of Olympic solidarity, told a virtual press conference, “There is a feeling of hope that they can cast a spotlight on this issue.”
The team, which includes people from Syria, South Sudan, Eritrea, Afghanistan, and Iran, is nearly three times the size of the initial team at the Rio Olympics.
After a delay in some of their journeys due to a positive COVID-19 test of a team official at a training camp in Qatar, all of the athletes landed in Tokyo late Thursday.
The competitors, who will compete in 12 disciplines, will march into the stadium during the opening ceremony in second position behind the creators of the ancient Games, Greece.
“Everyone is enthusiastic, but they are trying to concentrate on the Games like any other elite-level athlete,” Macleod said.
Six of them competed in Rio, but the rest will be competing for the first time.
“We don’t project medals and results with the refugee Olympic team,” says the coach.
“We don’t want the athletes to be under that kind of stress. We want them to be able to take part in the festivities here, Macleod,” he said.