The Rio Olympics 2016 has two specific elements that set it apart from previous Games: the largest Palestinian team ever at the Olympics, and a refugee team comprising of athletes with extraordinary abilities which would otherwise have gone unnoticed.
The opening ceremony of the Olympics saw the Palestinian team in all their customary regalia. While Palestine has been increasing efforts and struggling against the tightening Israeli blockade on its lands, asserting a presence in international forums like the Olympics is vital to the cause and shows the Palestinian people’s cry for and determination in asserting their national identity.
Six athletes are representing Palestine this year in high profile events: swimming, track and field. Palestinian athletes are also competing in judo and dressage riding. Unfortunately for the team though, Israel did not allow one member of Team Palestine out of Gaza to attend the Olympics.
Five runners from South Sudan, two swimmers from Syria, two judokas from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and a marathon runner from Ethiopia marched under the Olympic flag at the opening ceremony on August 5 at the Maracanã Stadium in Rio.
IOC president, Thomas Bach, said the inclusion of the Refugee Team would bring global attention to the magnitude of the refugee crisis and send a message to the world. “It is a signal to the international community that refugees are our fellow human beings and are an enrichment to society,” he said.
He added that, “These refugee athletes will show the world that despite the unimaginable tragedies that they have faced, anyone can contribute to society through their talent, skills and strength of the human spirit