The world’s first Refugee Olympic Team (ROT), which will compete at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, is almost complete. On Friday morning (29 July), five athletes from South Sudan, who today live in Kenya, arrived in Rio de Janeiro ahead of their participation in the athletics events at Rio 2016. One of them, Paulo Lokoro, who will compete in the 1500 metres has one dream in particular: to meet Jamaican sprint star Usain Bolt.
“I really want to meet Usain Bolt, he is someone I’ve only seen on television. I hope I can at least see him in the Olympic Village,” Lokoro said, accompanied by his teammates Yiech Pur Biel (800m), James Nyang (400m), Anjelina Nadai (1500m) and Rose Lokonyen (800m). Along with the athletes was the ROT chef de mission, Kenyan Tegla Loroupe, the first African woman to win the New York Marathon and who also has three Olympic Games under her belt.
With Syrian swimmers Yusra Mardini and Rami Anis already training at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium, the refugee team awaits only the arrival of Ethiopian Yonas Kinde, a marathon runner (the last event at Rio 2016), who lives in Luxemburg and will arrive in Rio on the morning of 1 August. Congolese judokas Popole Misenga and Yolande Mabika are already based in Rio.
“It’s really important because I know I represent thousands of refugees around the world,” said teammate Anjelina Nadai who, just like all the team members that had come from Kenya, was full of smiles for journalists and onlookers gathered at the arrivals gate.
“What I can say is that we didn’t want to become refugees, but that’s what happened,” Nadai continued. “Now we want to do something positive for those people (refugees), so maybe this is a chance to show the world our cause, so that there will be less and less refugees in the world.”
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