We’ve heard all the stories for months: the crime, pollution, unfinished venues, doping scandals, and the Zika virus. The Rio Olympics battled a huge storm of negative publicity coming into the games. Every day there seemed to be another #RioProblem. But now that the games have started, the feel-good stories of strength, perseverance, and hope are emerging. Here is my favorite one so far…
This year the first ever refugee team is participating in the summer games. These athletes aren’t representing a country, but the 65 million people displaced (either inside or outside their country) by war and persecution.
Originally called the “Team of Refugee Olympic Athletes,” the ten athletes representing South Sudan, Syria, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) soon became known as the “Refugee Olympic Team.” #ROT
Yusra Mardini is a courageous swimmer from Syria.
Rami Anis is a swimmer and a refugee from the Syrian Civil War.
Runners Paulo Amotun Lokoro, Yiech Pur Biel, Anjelina Nadai Lohalith, James Nyang Chiengjiek and Rose Nathike Lokonyen, are all originally from South Sudan.
Judokas Popole Misenga and Yolande Bukasa Mabika are from the DRC.
Yonas Kinde is a runner from Ethiopia.
Here is Rose Nathike Lokonyen, who was eight years old when she fled war and found safety in a refugee camp in northern Kenya, leading the squad at the Opening Ceremony behind the flag of the International Olympic Committee.
“Being a refugee doesn’t mean you are not a human being.” ~ Rose Nathike Lokonyen
The more I read about their incredible journeys, the clearer it became that these athletes did not want their refugee status to define them. Yusra Mardini, who last year helped drag a sinking boat full of fellow refugees to safety said,
“We are still humans. We are not only refugees, we are like everyone in the world.”
So, while I watch and cheer for these athletes as they compete on the grandest stage in sports, I will think of them as any other competitors: strong, disciplined, high-achieving individuals who did not let ANYTHING get in the way of their dreams. #TeamROT