What a brilliant idea. The Rio Olympics will have a team of refugee athletes.
Overnight the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that the official team comprising refugee athletes -- to be known as Team Refugee Olympic Athletes (ROA) -- would compete and be treated like all other teams of the 206 National Olympic Committees.
Team ROA will get its own welcome ceremony at the Olympic Village just like all other teams. It will be housed in purpose-built Olympic village accommodation, just like all the other teams. The IOC will appoint key personnel such a Chef de Mission as well coaches and various technical officials. It will also provide uniforms.
The IOC has a pledge to aid potential elite athletes affected by the worldwide refugee crisis. It asked the various National Olympic Committees have been asked to identify any refugee athlete with the potential to qualify for the Olympic Games Rio 2016.
Forty-three promising candidates have been identified, whom the IOC is now assisting financially and logistically. If an athlete from Team ROA happens to win a medal, the Olympic flag will be raised and the Olympic Anthem played. You can listen to the anthem here. You might think you don;'t know it, but believe us, you know it. It's not to be confused with the Olympic Hymn.
The team will march behind the Olympic flag before host team Brazil at the Opening Ceremony.
“By welcoming the team of Refugee Olympic Athletes to the Olympic Games Rio 2016, we want to send a message of hope for all refugees in our world,” said IOC President Thomas Bach.
“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."
The ROA team for Rio 2016 is expected to number between five and 10 athletes.
This will not be the first time that athletes have competed at the Olympics without a formal NOC behind them. Timor Leste (or East Timor) only became a sovereign state in 2000 but sent athletes to the Sydney Olympics. Their marathon runners lagged behind the main field but received easily the biggest applause. Expect similar scenes in Rio for Team ROA.