For the first time in history, an Olympic refugee team is competing against other nations in the representation of the 65 million refugees from all over the world. The opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympics greeted them with a standing ovation.

From judo athletes to runners and swimmers, the first Olympic team is made up ten different athletes from all over the world who have had to endure various situations while escaping from their countries. The Maracana stadium blasted into ovation when the team entered wearing khaki pants and blue blazers to the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics. The public reacted by greeting and celebrating these young athletes as a sign of recognition for their efforts.

The refugee team comprises competitors from Kenya, Syria, Ethiopia, South Sudan and DRC. Image Credit: UNHCR

The creation of the team came from the International Olympic Committee to not only create awareness of the refugee crisis that the world is facing but giving them a chance to compete and show their skills.

The team consists of men and women from different origins, races, and countries that gather to represent refugees from all over the world. Some have experienced bittersweet moments since they can not represent their countries of origin, yet the Olympic committee wants them to represent all countries.

“We’re fighting for all the refugees in the world; I’m not sad that I’m not going to carry the flag of my homeland. I will take a flag of many countries,” said Popole Misenga, a judo contestant from the team.

The first Olympic refugee team in history

The world is currently facing the strongest refugee crisis since World War II, having millions of people fleeing from their home countries and seeking a better life outside their troubling nations.

The ten member Olympic team consists of refugees from Syria, Ethiopia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Many have had to leave their countries at a very young age.

Take 18-year old swimmer Yusra Mardini, who had to escape the terrible and deadly situation in Syria with her sister, just last summer. The teenager had to flee from Lebanon to Turkey and then grab a lifeboat to get to Greece.

Mardini along with 19 other refugees, was put in the lifeboat that had a capacity for six people and along the way to Greece the motor of the boat broke down as the vehicle started to sink.

There are two Syrian swimmers, two judokas from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and six runners from Ethiopia and South Sudan in the refugee team Image Credit: UNHCR/Kim Badawi.

Only four people in the ship knew how to swim, including Mardini and her sister, who had to make the tough choice of swimming for three hours in cold water and dragging the boat with them.

Mardini and the three other swimmers managed to get the boat to Lesbos in Greece; the teenager managed to settle in Germany where she currently lives as a refugee.  The swimmer’s history has been a real inspiration for many.

Yusra Mardini is not the only one with a tough past; the team is made up of refugees from South Sudan who had to escape the civil war such as Paulo Amotun, who is 25 years old and Anjelina Nadai who is 21-years old.

Six men and four women on the team will serve as the symbol for the 65-millions of refugees all over the world, bringing them hope, strength, and inspiration.

Source: France 24