Refugees Compete in the Rio Olympics

We have been trying to figure out how to share with you the range of articles about the team of refugees competing at the 2016 Rio Olympics. With so many inspiring athletes, it's hard to choose stories. Here are a few highlights...


In an August 3 Huffington Post article, Maxwell Strachan wrote, “For the first time in Olympics history, a team of refugee athletes will band together in Rio de Janeiro this August to represent the 20 million people in the world who have no one country to call home. 

“The 10 athletes ― two swimmers, two judokas and six runners ― come from all over the world. They speak different languages and have different stories. But at recent press conferences, it has become clear that the men and women who comprise the team are united in a simple, yet powerful message they hope to get across to the world ― a message perhaps best put by Olympic swimmer Yusra Mardini.

“ ‘We still are humans. We are not only refugees,’ Mardini said. ‘We are like everyone in the world ... We didn’t choose to leave our homelands.’

“Originally from Damascus, Syria, Mardini and her sister, Sarah, found themselves with other refugees in Turkish waters inside an overcrowded boat when it started to leak. Many inside the boat couldn’t swim, so Mardini, her sister and another refugee got in the water and started to push the sinking boat all the way to the Greek island of Lesbos. 

“Mardini’s story, like all of the refugee athletes participating at the Olympic Games, is one of perseverance and strength, of human emotion and human fears. “

Charly Wilder at the New York Times had more on the swimmer: “Mardini and her sister swam for three and a half hours, helping the boat stay on course — even when the two male swimmers gave up and let the dinghy pull them along. It was cold, Mardini said. Her clothes dragged her down, and salt burned her eyes and skin.

“ ‘I’m thinking, what? I’m a swimmer, and I’m going to die in the water in the end?’ she said.

“But she was determined to keep a good attitude — and not just for her own sake.

“ ‘The little kid kept looking at me, scared,’ she said, ‘so I was doing all these funny faces.’ ” Read the Times article here.

Finally, the BBC has a lovely series following up on the performance of individual refugee Olympians and what it meant to them to compete. If it doesn’t just make your day, eat a Providence Granola bar and feel the spirit.

Team Refugee's Popole Misenga and Yolande Bukasa Mabika ‘entered history’ despite going out of the judo competition at the Rio Olympics. The pair, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, are among 10 refugee athletes competing under the flag of the International Olympic Committee. …

“Misenga, 24, … beat India's Avtar Singh in his opening match, lost [to] South Korea's Gwak Dong-han.

“Misenga's home city of Bukavu was one of the areas worst affected by the Second Congo War, which is still driving people from their homes. Both he and Mabika began seeking asylum in Brazil during the 2013 World Judo Championships in Rio.

" ‘It's an honour to be in the Olympics. I fought with a champion,’ Misenga said. ‘I'm just really happy to be here because everybody understands and knows about the refugee team, knows the refugee story. People around the world, they're all watching this competition right now.’

“Mabika lost to Israel's Linda Bolder at Carioca Arena 2 on Wednesday. But she said afterwards: ‘I'm representing many nations and my victory is a victory for all refugees in the world. I lost, but I'm here. The fight did not end today. The fight is not only judo, the fight is life.’ "

More from the BBC series here and here

Caroline Ellis of SuzannesMomsBlog submitted this post.