LAUSANNE: Olympic officials have identified 43 candidates for a team of refugee athletes who will compete in the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro in a “message of hope” for millions of refugees around the world, the IOC said Wednesday.
IOC President Thomas Bach said he expects between five and 10 athletes to be selected for a team that will compete under the Olympic flag as “Team Refugee Olympic Athletes.”
The final list of athletes will be named by the International Olympic Committee executive board in June.
The team will march in the opening ceremony in Rio on Aug. 5 just before the athletes from host Brazil.
“By welcoming this team of refugee athletes to Rio, we want to send a message of hope for all refugees of the world,” Bach said at the close of a two-day IOC executive board meeting in Lausanne.
The IOC said in December that three potential Olympic athletes had been identified from among the wave of refugees and migrants from Syria and other troubled regions coming into Europe. Dozens of others have now been discovered in various refugee camps.
“These athletes have no national team to belong to, they have no flag to march behind, no national anthem to be played,” Bach said. “We will welcome these refugee athletes with the Olympic flag and with the Olympic anthem.”
No details were given on where the potential team members come from or which sports they compete in.
The IOC had already pledged $2 million to help refugees, and asked authorities in refugee camps to identify any top-level international athletes.
Bach said candidates for the Olympic team will be checked for their eligibility, nationality and refugee status.
“We will have to see what qualifications they can achieve,” he said. “My gut feeling is this team will end up with between five and 10 athletes.”
Bach said the IOC will appoint officials, coaches and other personnel for the team. The IOC will also provide team uniforms for the athletes.
Bach stressed the refugees will be treated like all other teams that are represented by national Olympic committees. They will live together with other athletes in the Olympic Village.
The refugees receive financial and other assistance from the IOC’s Olympic Solidarity program. The IOC is covering all their travel and other expenses.
Athletes chosen for the Olympic team will go through drug-testing procedures administered by the World Anti-Doping Agency, Bach said.