The presence of the Refugee Team at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics symbolizes the true essence of the Olympic Spirit, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.
Grandi made the remarks after the 29 athletes lined up alongside thousands of other athletes on Friday at the Opening Ceremony of the 2020 Olympics.
“You are here through your determination, perseverance and conviction. You are here to compete with the best of the best. So on the eve of the XXXII Olympiad, I salute and celebrate you all as you prepare to represent the refugees and displaced people from all over the world – not just one nation; to represent the true essence of the Olympic Spirit,” said Grandi.
The Refugee Team at the Tokyo 2020 Games is the second to participate at the Olympics after the inaugural team that competed at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
As part of its more than 25-year partnership with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), UNHCR works with the IOC and the Olympic Refuge Foundation (ORF) to harness the power of sport to help create a world where every person forced to flee can build a better future.
While wishing the Refugee Team well in their Olympics outing, Grandi acknowledged their journeys and determination to compete at one of the world’s biggest sporting events.
“This unprecedented year has seen us through some extraordinary events. The pandemic continues to remain a challenge. You, of course, are familiar with adversity – you have surmounted many difficult obstacles in your journeys to where you stand today,” he said.
“On behalf of UNHCR, of our partners, and of all those who support the refugee cause, let me wish you success and fulfillment. We are humbled by your courage and talent!”
The 29-man team includes 10 athletes of African origin who fled their countries for various reasons.
Five of the 10 athletes have already had the Olympics experience before, having been part of the Refugee team that took part in the Rio 2016 Games.