Refugee Team for Paris Olympics has 36 athletes from 11 countries across 12 sports

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — The Refugee Team for the Paris Olympics will feature 36 athletes from 11 countries in 12 sports.

They were picked from more than 70 scholarships, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said at the team announcement on Thursday.

Instead of competing under the Olympic flag, the refugees have their own emblem featuring a heart at its center, surrounded by arrows symbolizing how lost refugees can find their way back. The team will be known under the acronym EOR from the French name Équipe Olympique des Réfugiés.

“Having our own emblem creates a sense of belonging, and empowers us to also stand for the population of more than 100 million people who share this same experience,” said Masomah Ali Zada of Afghanistan, the team chef de mission who competed in women’s cycling at the Tokyo Games. “I cannot wait to wear it proudly.”

A total of 23 men and 13 women will compete in athletics, badminton, boxing, breaking, canoeing, cycling, judo, shooting, swimming, taekwondo, weightlifting and wrestling at the Games starting on July 24.

Boxer Cindy Ngamba and Ethiopian runner Farida Abaroge are among the women. Kasra Mehdipournejad, an Iranian taekwondo athlete living in Germany, and shooter Edilio Francisco Centeno Nieves from Venezuela are among the men.

“My Olympic dream is coming true,” Mehdipournejad said.

On Tuesday, a third runner on the team was suspended for a positive doping test.

The refugee team was created by the IOC for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro to allow athletes to keep competing, even if they have been forced to leave their home countries.

There were 10 athletes in Rio, with Syrian swimmer Yusra Mardini becoming the first to compete. Three years ago in Tokyo the number was 29 across 12 sports.


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