The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has announced the creation of a team of refugees that are set to participate at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this summer. Competing under the moniker of Team Refugee Olympic Athletes (ROA), they will march to the event's five-ring flag and anthem at the opening ceremony, which takes place inside the Maracana Stadium on 5 August.
Team ROA will also be housed alongside other nations at the Olympic Village, with their uniforms provided by the IOC and their travel and participation expenses covered by the Olympic Solidarity Commission.
"As part of the IOC's pledge to aid potential elite athletes affected by the worldwide refugee crisis, the NOCs were asked to identify any refugee athlete with the potential to qualify for the Olympic Games Rio 2016," the IOC confirmed in an official statement. "Such candidates could then receive funding from Olympic Solidarity to assist with their preparations and qualification efforts.
"Forty-three promising candidates have been identified, whom the IOC is now assisting. In view of the complexity of the process and in order to allow sufficient time to finalise and consolidate all the necessary information about these candidates, the EB decided today [2 March] to close the call for new candidatures. Only under exceptional circumstances requiring the approval of the IOC President will new candidates be considered."
Those 43 candidates will eventually be whittled down to a team numbering five to ten athletes, with the final decision to be announced at a meeting of the IOC's executive board in June.
"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," IOC president Thomas Bach said. "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."