The cost of human suffering from the refugee crisis is one that the 21st century never thought it would be witness — or party — to. But amid the staggering number of people fleeing their homes and the lives lost, a handful of refugees will be able to keep their dreams of participating in the Olympics alive. On Wednesday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) officially created an Olympic team for refugees, honoring a resolution passed in the United Nations General Assembly last year.
According to the committee, the refugees chosen to participate will be able to walk in the Rio 2016 opening ceremony, don their own uniform, and compete under the Olympic flag as Team Refugee Olympic Athletes (ROA).
"We want to send a message of hope for all refugees in our world," IOC President Thomas Bach said in a statement. "Having no national team to belong to, having no flag to march behind, having no national anthem to be played, these refugee athletes will be welcomed to the Olympic Games with the Olympic flag and with the Olympic Anthem. They will have a home together with all the other 11,000 athletes from 206 National Olympic Committees in the Olympic Village."
Forty-three candidates have been identified by the National Olympic Committees, and five to 10 people will be picked to represent "Team Refugee" in the games. Officials are looking at sporting level, official refugee status verified by the U.N., and personal situation and background in their nominations.
Importantly, the statement released by the IOC noted that officials will "continue to support" athletes — likely financially — that make the team even after the Olympics are over.
Cover image via lazyllama / Shutterstock.com.