The presentation at the Campoamor Theater in Oviedo, Spain, was presided over by Their Majesties the King and Queen of Spain, accompanied by Their Royal Highnesses Leonor, Princess of Asturias, and the Infanta Sofía.
“The Olympic Refuge Foundation and the Refugee Olympic Team remind us that sport, elite competition and the Olympic Movement also serve to remember, reflect and mitigate – where possible – the harsh reality that live so many people in the world,” said His Majesty the King of Spain in his speech.
He added: “The word refugee is one of those terms that causes deep despair in the person who hears it. Because the refugees of the world have lost everything, forced to leave their homes, their countries for reasons beyond of their will and always in dramatic circumstances, even putting their lives in danger. We are called to show solidarity so that they can pursue their personal ambitions. This is what this foundation and the Refugee Olympic Team are doing by supporting athletes from different countries around the world so that they can resume their activity in decent conditions and participate in sports competitions. We wish much success to Eldric Sella and Masomah Ali Zada, who are with us this afternoon, and we encourage them to keep fighting for their dreams. Finally, we thank the President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, for his support, leadership and energy.”
Her Royal Highness Leonor said for her part: “It also worries me that athletes cannot train and progress in their careers because they have been forced to flee their country. So this is a great initiative. For some years now, athletes in this situation have been able to continue their training in order to participate in the Olympic Games, thanks to the Refugee Olympic Team and its foundation”.
“We young people are aware that the current situation is not easy, that the world has changed and continues to change, and that the best way to progress is to maintain the enthusiasm to learn, to take responsibility and to give ourselves the means to act, to learn from those who know, from those who do their job impeccably, often in silence”. That’s why, on days like today, listening to, admiring and recognizing the excellence of our laureates gives us the feeling that things can always change for the better.”
The award is given in recognition of the opportunities that the ORF and the Refugee Olympic Team provide to displaced young people, all over the world, to have access to sport and achieve their full potential.
“The highest values of sport”
The jury – chaired by Spaniard Abel Antón, two-time world marathon champion – highlighted “the possibilities that are offered to athletes living in conflict zones and other places where their human rights are violated and where they are prevented from carry out their sporting and personal activities”.
The jury also noted that the Refugee Olympic Team “exemplifies the highest values of sport, such as integration, education, solidarity and humanity, and sends a message of hope to the whole world”.
IOC President Thomas Bach reacted: “We are very honored and touched to have received the Princess of Asturias Prize for Sport tonight at this impressive traditional ceremony. When we have seen the refugee crisis unfold In 2015, I thought there must be a lot of young athletes who had the Olympic dream and were on the verge of losing that dream. We wanted to help them make their dream a reality. And that’s why the IOC created the Refugee Olympic Team. These athletes had no more flag, no more anthem and no more house. We gave them the Olympic anthem, the Olympic flag and a house in the Olympic Village. This In doing so, we showed the world that refugees are an enrichment for society and we sent a strong message of hope to the world. After the success of the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, we we wanted to ren force our support for all refugees, not just elite athletes. That’s why we created the Olympic Refuge Foundation, which offers programs giving access to sport to young displaced people and refugees in their host communities around the world, with the goal of reaching one million of them. by 2024.”
“When I arrived in France and learned about the existence of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team, I was really happy,” said Masomah Ali Zada, who is originally from Afghanistan and now lives in France. “With the Refugee Olympic Team, I could represent the world, I could represent peace and I could represent all the refugees who had to leave their country. We all had to leave our country, but we all found the courage to overcoming difficulties, starting over and becoming stronger. The Refugee Olympic Team has a very strong meaning. It sends a message of hope to all refugees and children in refugee camps. To the Tokyo 2020 Olympics , the dream has come true for me”.
“We came to Tokyo as a team and this strong bond between us will remain forever,” said Eldric Sella, who is from Venezuela and lives in Uruguay. “As a child, I always dreamed of participating in the Olympic Games. I never gave up on this dream, even though I had to leave my country and go through difficult times until I could settle in Uruguay. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to compete with the best athletes on the planet and to have been able to show that refugees can achieve a lot if the world believes in them I have never been so determined to go to Paris. I will train hard and above all continue to promote the power of sport and what it can bring to a refugee athlete like me, but also to millions of young displaced people around the world.”
The IOC Vice-President, Juan Antonio Samaranch, and the President of the National Olympic Committee of Spain, Alejandro Blanco, accompanied the IOC President during his stay in Oviedo.
While in Asturias, boxer Eldric Sella visited a training center for elite athletes in Gijón. He was accompanied by Lydia Murungi, ORF Flagship Program Manager “Game Connect” in Uganda, which aims to strengthen, through sport, the mental health and well-being of displaced young people. Along with Ali Zada, Eldric Sella also met with local schoolchildren to share their stories and Olympic experiences. On this occasion, they were accompanied by IOC President Thomas Bach and Spanish NOC President Alejandro Blanco.
A message of hope
The IOC has been helping refugees through sport since 1994, in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In 2015, the IOC created the first ever Refugee Olympic Team. She participated in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games with 10 athletes – from Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. She sent a message of hope and inclusion to millions of forcibly displaced people around the world, inspiring the planet with their strength of character.
Following the team’s success, an Olympic Solidarity program was specifically created to support 56 promising refugee athletes from 13 countries in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which the Refugee Olympic Team once competed in. moreover, with 29 athletes in 12 sports. The IOC has since announced that the team will be maintained for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
Nowadays, 47 athletes obtained an Olympic scholarship for refugee athletes ; these scholarships help them train for their eventual selection for the‘Refugee Olympic team that the IOC will form for the Paris 2024 Games. These athletes are supported by Olympic Solidarity and managed by the ORF. ORF ensures that all athletes receive support after their Olympic journey, whether or not they go to the Games.
Support for displaced young people 365 days a year
Established by the IOC in 2017, the ORF aims to help improve the quality of life of displaced and disadvantaged children and young people around the world by providing safe places for them to play and practice sport. By working closely with UNHCR as well as local partners and authorities on the ground, ORF offers sports activities and social development projects that can be implemented in a sustainable way in these safe places.
Since its launch, ORF has coordinated 13 programs in seven countries (Jordan, Kenya, Mexico, Uganda, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Turkey). To date, more than 200,000 young people have benefited from sports programs designed to improve their well-being and social integration. The ORF aims to provide access to sport to one million forcibly displaced young people by 2024.
A rich history
The Annual Princess of Asturias Awards were created in 1981 (as the Prince of Asturias Prize) to honor individuals, entities or organizations around the world who have made outstanding achievements in the sciences, humanities and public affairs.
The International Olympic Committee is an international non-governmental, civil and non-profit organization, composed of volunteers, which is committed to building a better world through sport. It redistributes over 90% of its revenue to the wider sports movement, the equivalent of $4.2 million (USD) every day to help athletes and sports organizations at all levels around the world.
For more information, please contact the IOC Media Relations team on +41 21 621 60 00, email: email@example.com or visit our website: www.ioc.org
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ORF and the Refugee Olympic Team receive the 2022 Princess of Asturias Prize for Sport
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