The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has announced its initial list of 44 athletes, including two swimmers, who have been awarded the Olympic Scholarships for Refugee Athletes as they work to be selected to the IOC Refugee Olympic Team for the Olympics. Paris in 2024. Today, June 20, 2022, is also World Refugee Day.
A total of 44 athletes are on the initial list. They come from 12 countries (Afghanistan, Cameroon, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Islamic Republic of Iran, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Venezuela) and have 16 National Olympic Committees as hosts. The 44 athletes also come from a total of 12 sports.
Included in the list are two swimmers: Alaa Maso and Eyad Massoud. Maso competed in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as a member of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team. He swam in the 50 freestyle preliminaries with a time of 23.30 to finish 44th.
Masoud also benefited from the scholarship, although he did not participate in the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Mason and Masoud fled Syria. Maso is currently training in Germany and Masoud is currently training in New Zealand.
Of the initial group of 44 athletes, three are completely new to the scholarship program. 23 of the athletes had been members of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team in Rio (2016) and/or Tokyo (2020).
IOC President Thomas Bach addressed the athletes saying: “We welcome you to the Olympic community and wish you good luck in qualifying. I know what a tough time it is to go through to qualify for the Olympics, and so we admire how you are rising to the challenge considering all the hardships you have overcome.
The scholarships are funded by the IOC as part of the Olympic Solidarity program which provides selected refugee athletes with support to enable them to continue to train and compete as they prepare for the Paris Olympic Games in 2024 .
Three athletes benefit from transition scholarships, which means that they are in the process of becoming citizens of their host country.
The scholarship was created after the first IOC Refugee Olympic Team competed in the Rio Olympics in 2016. The Refugee Team was originally established in 2015 by the IOC to raise awareness of the global refugee crisis.
The 2016 IOC Refugee Olympic Team in Rio consisted of ten athletes, including two swimmers, Rummy Anis and Yousra Mardini. Anis participated in the preliminaries for the 100 freestyle (54.25 for the 56th) and the 100 butterfly (56.23 for the 40th). Mardini competed in the 100 freestyle (1:04.66) and 100 butterfly (1:09.21) preliminaries.
The 2020 IOC Refugee Olympic Team in Tokyo has grown to 29 athletes, including two swimmers. As mentioned above, Maso swam in the 50m freestyle preliminaries with a time of 23.30 to finish 44th. Mardini competed in her second straight Olympics after competing in the 100 butterfly preliminaries. She swam a time of 1:06.78 to finish 33rd.
The 2024 IOC Refugee Olympic Team for Paris will be announced in 2024.