If bravery was an Olympic sport, the ten athletes who make up the first-ever refugee team at the Rio Olympics would be odds-on for a clean sweep of the gold medals.
From Yusra Mardini, a teenage swimmer from Syria who braved a Mediterranean crossing in a leaky dinghy, to Popole Misenga, who spent eight days hiding in a forest as a terrified child to flee bloody fighting, each of the refugee athletes have overcome daunting odds to maintain their Olympic dreams.
When the ten athletes walked into the Maracanã stadium for the opening ceremony, they were united as one by the strength of their sheer will power to overcome impossible odds in their quest for Olympic glory. They walked into the ceremony under the Olympic flag, for lack of a common symbol, as the athletes hailed from four different countries.
But now, an organisation called the Refugee Nation – with the support of Amnesty International – has given the refugee athletes a common flag, an anthem, and a sense of identity and recognition.
Established as a place to pay a tribute to the refugee athletes in the Olympics, and all refugees in the world, Refugee Nation designed a flag and composed a national anthem for the athletes.
The flag was designed and made by Yara Said, an artist and Syrian refugee now living in Amsterdam. After graduating at the Faculty of Fine Arts at Damascus University, Yara had to leave her own country to search for a safer place to live.
"A black and orange (colors of the life vests) is a symbol of solidarity for all those who crossed the sea in search of a new country. I myself wore one, which is why I so identify with these colors—and these people," Yara said.
The anthem was written by Moutaz Arian, a composer and Syrian refugee now living in Istanbul. Three years ago, he was studying music at University of Damascus. After being threatened with conscription into Assad’s army, Moutaz decided he had no choice but to flee his own country.
"I want to make music not just for Kurds or Arabs, but for the whole world," Moutaz Arian said.
Right now, the world is experiencing the largest refugee crisis since World War II. More than 20 million people around the globe have fled their homes due to wars, violence, or persecution. They have nowhere to go – and no choice but to leave.
The attempt to recognise and give an identity to these refugees will help raise awareness about the need to respond to the global refugee crisis in a meaningful manner – protecting refugees’ human rights, supporting refugees to rebuild their lives, and sharing responsibility across nations.
"Having no national team to belong to, having no flag to march behind, having no national anthem to be played, these refugees will be welcomed to the Olympic Games with the Olympic flag and with the Olympic anthem. They will have a home together with all the other 11,000 athletes from 206 National Olympic Committees in the Olympic Village," Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said when he announced the team's creation in March.
That all might change as they now have a team, flag and anthem to call their own. But, as of now, the Refugee Olympic Team are not able to officially use the flag or the anthem. The organisation is trying to get recognition from the IOC.
You can take the pledge to support the refugees as well.
With inputs from AFP
Updated Date: Aug 11, 2016 16:38:24 IST