The Refugee Athletes who Participated in Rio 2016

11th February 2020
Who were the refugee athletes who participated under the Olympic flag in Rio 2016? Get to know more about this team that will also be participating in Tokyo 2020.

If you watched the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, then you probably noticed that there are refugee athletes and even a refugee team? If you usually follow the Olympic Games, then you’re probably wondering what this is about? In this article, we’ll explain how this team came into existence.

What is the Refugee Olympic Team?

In the early days, the acronym ROA identified the team, standing for Team of Refugee Olympic Athletes. However, this later changed for ROT or Refugee Olympic Team. The International Olympic Committee financed the team, and they organized it the same year as the Olympic Games.

In January of 2016, the IOC requested all Olympic committees to identify and report those athletes who currently had refugee status. These athletes used to be citizens of countries now in war or political conflict. Since the announcement of this decision, 43 athletes were candidates to be part of the new delegation.

There were three requirements the athletes had to meet: having the minimum marks to qualify in their respective sports, having a refugee status endorsed by the United Nations and having personal values that went according to those of the IOC.

At last, the IOC decided that for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, ten refugee athletes would participate as part of the ROT. Then, all expenses -including preparation, clothing, and travel- were paid for by the IOC through its International Olympic Solidarity team. They chose the Olympic flag to represent them.

Who were the refugee athletes from Rio 2016?

The IOC confirmed the members of the ROT in June of 2016. The delegation chose Kenyan athlete, Tegla Loroupe as Chef de Mission, and the Sudanese athlete Rose Lokonyen as flagbearer.

  • Rami Anis: he was born in Syria, with current residence in Belgium. Anis chose swimming as his life path, and he specializes in 100 meters of freestyle and 100 meters butterfly.
athlete rami anis competes in the swimming test

  • Yiech Pur Biel: this athlete is from South Sudan, with current residence in Kenya. He participated in running the 800 meters of athletics.
  • James Nyang Chiengjiek: he was born in South Sudan, but lives in Kenya. He ran the 400 meters athletics.
  • Yonas Kinde: he was born in Ethiopia, but is a refugee in Luxembourg. He dedicated his life to running marathons.
  • Anjelina Nadai Lohalith: Anjelina is also a native of South Sudan, now residing in Kenya. She specializes in 1500 meter races.
  • Rose Lokonyen: born in South Sudan, she is now a refugee in Kenya. She participated in the 800 meters race.
  • Paulo Amotun Lokoro: a Sudanese living in Kenya. As a result, during the Olympics, he participated in the 1500 meters athletics race.
  • Yolande Bukasa Mabika: born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she’s currently living in Brazil. She practices judo, and her category is less than 70 kilos.
  • Yusra Mardini: a young athlete born in Syria, currently living in Germany. However, swimming is only part of who she is, since 2016, she’s an ambassador for refugees all over the world.
  • Popole Misenga: born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, refugee in Brazil, he practices judo. He was one of the best athletes in the refugee team, managing to reach the quarterfinals.

What will happen in Tokyo 2020: refugee athletes?

The International Olympic Committee held its 133rd session in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in October 2018. Then, during that session, the IOC approved the participation of a team of refugee athletes in the following Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

the IOC allowed the refugee team to participate in this year's olympic games

The President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, authorized the initiative. In his statement, he said: “In an ideal world, the refugee athlete team shouldn’t exist. But the reasons why we created this group before Rio 2016 still remain.”

Subsequently, in June 2019, the IOC published the list of athletes who applied to be part of the Refugee Olympic Team. Since then, there are 46 beneficiaries of the refugee scholarships the IOPC offers. Of course, this number includes the ten athletes who participated in Rio 2016.

These athletes were born all over the world. For example, there are athletes from Afghanistan, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Iran, South Sudan, Sudan, and even Syria. Of course, the disciplines they compete in are very different. The refugee athletes compete in athletics, badminton, boxing, cycling, judo, karate, shooting, swimming, taekwondo, weightlifting, and wrestling.

  • IOC REFUGEE OLYMPIC TEAM. COI sitio oficial. https://www.olympic.org/refugee-olympic-team
  • Clayton, J. Atletas Refugiados se preparan para ir a los Juegos Olímpicos y hacer historia. ACNUR. Julio de 2016. https://www.acnur.org/noticias/noticia/2016/7/5b7e71602e/atletas-refugiados-se-preparan-para-ir-a-los-juegos-olimpicos-y-hacer-historia.html
  • La Vanguardia. Río acoge a la primera delegación de atletas refugiados en la historia de los Juegos Olímpicos. Agosto de 2016. https://www.lavanguardia.com/deportes/olimpiadas/20160802/403637595788/rio-de-janeiro-primera-delegacion-atletas-refugiados-historia-juegos-olimpicos.html