LAURA WALDEN (USA) / Sports Features Communications
(SFC) The Executive Board (EB) of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has created the Refugee Olympic Athletes (ROA) team giving athletes who have had to flee their homeland a second chance to compete at the Games. The IOC pledged to offer assistance to elite level athletes who were affected by the worldwide refugee crisis and came through with the opportunity.
National Olympic Committees (NOCs) were requested to identify any refugee athlete who might qualify for the Rio 2016 Games and these athletes might be able to receive aid and assistance from Olympic Solidarity to help them their preparations and qualification efforts.
IOC President Thomas Bach said, "By welcoming the team of Refugee Olympic Athletes to the Olympic Games Rio 2016, we want to send a message of hope for all refugees in our world.
"Having no national team to belong to, having no flag to march behind, having no national anthem to be played, these refugee athletes 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."
Around 43 athletes have been targeted so far that are already receiving assistance and the ROA team for Rio 2016 is expected to number between five and 10 athletes. The EB decided today to close the call for new candidatures and only under exceptional circumstances requiring the approval of the IOC President will new candidates be considered. And the EB will also announce the names of those that will be approved to attend.
After Agenda 2020 was approved, the IOC carved out a special fund of US$2 million to establish relief projects in collaboration with the NOCs around the world.
The IOC will step in and has approved:
· *The EB also approved the operational aspects surrounding Team ROA.
· * The name of the team will be Team Refugee Olympic Athletes;
· * Team ROA will get its own welcome ceremony at the Olympic Village, like all other teams;
· * The team will be housed like all the other teams;
· *A team entourage will be appointed by the IOC to meet all the required technical needs of the athletes, including: Chef de Mission, coaches and technical officials (as per official quotas);
· *The team uniforms will be provided by the IOC;
· *For all official representations of the team (including possible medal ceremonies), the Olympic flag will be raised and the Olympic Anthem will be played;
· *The team will march behind the Olympic flag before host team Brazil at the Opening Ceremony;
· * An adequate insurance policy will be contracted;
· *A proper doping control process will be introduced through the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA); and
· *Olympic Solidarity will cover travel and other participation expenses for the team and will continue to support the athletes of the team after the Olympic Games.
**LAURA WALDEN has over twenty-five years of experience in the Olympic Movement, formerly at the European Olympic Committees with SportEurope under former IOC President Dr. Jacques Rogge and IOC Member Mario Pescante. She worked with the Rome 2004 and Turin 2006 Olympic bids and also managed PR & media for Dr. Jacques Rogge during his campaign for the presidency.