MONACO (Reuters) – A refugee team that competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics with 10 athletes from countries including Syria and South Sudan was named on Monday as winner of a Laureus Award for sporting inspiration.
“This award is for the 65.4 million displaced people globally, who cannot go to their homes because of strife,” Kenyan distance runner Tegla Loroupe, the team’s chef de mission, told a news conference in Monaco.
“Each of the 10 inspirational people in our team have triumphed over adversity and endured unimaginable journeys to get to the start line.”
The hand-picked team of refugees from Syria, Congo, Ethiopia and South Sudan provided one of the highlights of the Games with the athletes taking part in athletics, swimming and judo.
One of those attending Monday’s news conference was Syrian swimmer Rami Anis, who made the hazardous sea crossing from Turkey to Greece after fleeing his home town of Aleppo and ended up in Belgium.
“Sport gives everyone a chance, and what happened at the Rio Olympics showed people around the world who have trouble and fear in their lives that there is hope,” he said in a Laureus statement.
The International Olympic Committee has yet to decide whether to send another refugee team to Tokyo in 2020.
More than a million refugees streamed into Europe in 2016 alone as they fled fighting in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Millions more are housed in camps in countries across the world, having escaped wars or armed conflicts in their home nations.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Pritha Sarkar)