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Refugee team to compete at Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Thomas Bach

Buenos Aires, October 10: A team of refugees will again take part at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) confirmed, making it the second consecutive Summer Games it is going to happen after 10 refugees competed at the 2016 Rio Games.

The decision was approved at the 133rd IOC meeting in Buenos Aires.

IOC President Thomas Bach asked its members to support the creation of a refugee team, along the lines of the one that competed at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. The members responded with applause.

"So you have created the refugee Olympic team, Tokyo 2020," Bach said.

The German said the IOC had already identified a pool of more than 50 refugee athletes and it was necessary to keep the world aware of the plight of the tens of millions of refugees around the world.

"There is one unfortunate reason for the creation of this team," Bach told a news conference.

"This is the fact that the reasons we created the first ever team still persist. We have altogether 68.5 million refugees in this world."

"Through sport we want to make a contribution to keep the world aware of this problem and this challenge and that it does not disappear from the conscience of the world, and send another signal of hope to these refugees."

There were no details yet on the final size or makeup of the team but Bach said the pool of potential athletes for the team could grow more.

"Last time (for Rio) we were under very high time pressure. Now we have two years. We have already taken precaution... and we have a pool of athletes in place. Already now we're supporting 51 or 52 refugee athletes who we have identified," Bach said.

"This pool can still grow in the run-up to Tokyo 2020. It is too early to say how many will finally make it."

The IOC unveiled its first team of refugees in an effort to raise awareness of the issue and it was one of the feel-good stories of the Rio Olympics.

The 10-member team from Syria, Congo, Ethiopia and South Sudan hogged the spotlight after marching as the penultimate team before host nation Brazil in the Opening Ceremony at the Olympic stadium.

The athletes took part in athletics, swimming and judo.

The IOC has continued supporting these athletes, some of whom attended the IOC session in the Argentinian capital.

The IOC had said last year it was considering forming such a team again for the Tokyo Games and has continued to support the athletes who took part in Rio.

(With inputs from Agencies)

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Story first published: Wednesday, October 10, 2018, 17:00 [IST]
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