At the 133rd Session of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Buenos Aires, it was decided to create a team of refugees to take part in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
The IOC Session members asked the Olympic Solidarity set the conditions for participation and define the team identification and selection procedure in close collaboration with the National Olympic Committees (NOCs), the International Sports Federations (IFs), the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
IOC President Thomas Bach regretted that "the reasons why an Olympic refugee team was initially created before the Rio 2016 Games are still relevant today."
The very first Refugee Olympic Team was created by the IOC in 2015. Ten athletes were chosen to represent peoples who are too often forgotten. It was a historic moment in Brazil when a team made up of refugees took part in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games for the very first time. During the opening ceremony parade, two swimmers, two judokas, a marathon runner and five middle-distance runners from Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo instantly became role models for the 68.5 million refugees and internally displaced persons, and true global ambassadors for the values of Olympism.
"We will do everything we can to welcome refugee athletes and give them a 'home' and a flag in the Olympic Village in Tokyo, alongside athletes from the 206 National Olympic Committees." Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee
Since the Rio Olympic Games, the IOC has continued to support these 10 Olympians, as well as other refugee athletes on five continents, through the Olympic Solidarity support program for them. Through scholarships in the form of monthly training grants and fixed grants for competition, Olympic Solidarity and the National Olympic Committees hosting these refugees help them to prepare for and take part in national and international competitions. The UNHCR, which has a long-standing relationship with the IOC, plays an essential role in all stages of athlete selection, approval and monitoring.
Furthermore, in September 2017, the IOC launchedtheOlympic Refuge Foundation to contribute more broadly to the protection and empowerment of vulnerable displaced people through sport and the creation of safe spaces, again in cooperation with UNHCR and partners on the ground.
"In 2016, the Refugee Team in Rio captured the imagination of the world and showed, through sport, the human side of the global refugee crisis. I'm delighted that this tradition will continue in Tokyo. Giving these exceptional young athletes the opportunity to compete at the highest level is admirable." Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
For the past 20 years, in collaboration with the UNHCR, the IOC has been helping refugees and displaced persons by using the power of sport to promote youth development, education, social integration and health. These actions bring joy through sport and help to heal the psychological wounds suffered by refugee populations in numerous camps and facilities around the world.
The members of the Olympic refugee team for Tokyo will be announced in 2020.