Refugee team bright spot in Rio’s troubled Olympics | Inquirer Sports

Refugee team bright spot in Rio’s troubled Olympics

/ 01:12 AM August 06, 2016

THE DREADED Zika virus. A drug-resistant super bacteria detected in the water sports venue. Fire and flooding at the brand new Olympic village. A “nuclear option:” that threatens to wipe out the entire Russian team.

These are some of the dark clouds overshadowing the Summer Olympic Games unfurling today (Friday night in Brazil) at Rio de Janeiro’s cavernous Maracaña Stadium.

But a silver lining figuratively will brighten the skies of the Carnival City and glow in the minds of audiences worldwide during the opening ceremonies when the first ever Olympic team made up of refugees takes its place among competitors from around the globe, including our 12 Olympians.

A brainchild of International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach, the team shows the world refugees are worthy of help and capable of doing great things when they finally go home.


Further, Back said the unique delegation “will make the world better aware of the magnitude of this [refugee] crisis.” The team will march under the Olympic flag and to the Olympic anthem, and live as other teams in the Olympic Village roused recently by flooding and fire near the Australian Olympic quarters.

The team is the sports face of the current refugee problem. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, there are 65 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, the most since the Second World War that ended 71 years ago.

From a candidate pool of 33 who trained in the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya, 10 athletes were selected for Rio.

They include an Ethiopian marathoner, Yonas Kinde who drives a taxi in Luxembourg; two judokas, Popole Misenga and Yolande Mabika from the Congo who were left by their coach after a competition in Brazil in 2013; a pair of Syrian swimmers Yusra Mardini and Rami Anis, who escaped to Germany and Belgium, respectively; and five long distance runners from South Sudan, Yiech Pur Biel, Angelina Nadai


Lohahith, Nathiki Lokonyen, Paulo Amorun Lokoro, and James Nyang Chiengjiek.

Bach has played the good guy in Rio lately. He is seemingly unperturbed by the decision of the superstars of the Games’ made for TV events and veritable gold mines for corporate sponsorship—basketball, golf and tennis—to stay out of the Games due to the Zika threat and other personal reasons.


Lately, Bach and the Brazil organizers were jolted by the discovery of a bacteria that threatens the health of sailing and water sports athletes competing in Rio’s Guanabara Bay.

Bach and the IOC would likely not disqualify the entire Russian team from competing in Rio because of state sponsored doping.

The “nuclear option” that would obliterate the Kremlin’s contingent was not what the Olympic movement stands for,” according to Bach.

* * *

While qualifying for their own version of the Olympics, disabled Filipino athletes even outpaced their healthy colleagues.

Now after a hoped-for send-off by President Duterte, para-athletes Pete Mangliwan and Ernie Gawilan in athletics, Josephine Medina in table tennis and Adeline Ancheta in power lifting will compete at the 2016 Rio Paralympics Sept. 7 to 18.

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The four who will join close to 4,500 athletes from more than 160 countries, banner the hopes of 2 million Filipinos with disabilities, says Dennis Esta, the Philippine Sports Association for the Differently Abled (Philspada) executive director who will accompany the team to Rio.

TAGS: Rio de Janeiro., Summer Olympic Games, Zika virus

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