Hands down, the Refugee Olympic Team won the Rio Olympics, regardless of what the medal table says, and now they have a graffiti mural honoring their legacy.
Artists Rodrigo Sini and Cety Soledade honored the refugee team with a 100-square meter spray-painted mural in Rio's Olympic boulevard, along a corridor dedicated for urban arts.
“For me, they’re already gold medal champions,” said one of the artists. “There is no medal that justifies the pleasure or the weight each of them carries, for the story each of them has, for the determination and courage they all had when they had to abandon their home countries to restart their lives somewhere else.”
The team of 10 athletes marched under the 5-ring Olympic flag in the opening ceremony of Rio 2016, defying a past scarred by adversity and earning the loudest applause of the evening.
The first-ever refugee athletes made history, stole our hearts and now have left their mark in Rio – quite literally – thanks to the two Brazilian graffiti artists.
The mural includes large-scale portraits of the two Syrian swimmers, two Congolese judokas and six runners from Ethiopia and South Sudan. The aim was to leave a "lasting legacy here in Rio that would compel people to think about the plight of refugees around the world," said the organizers, according to Eurosports .
The mural came to life with the help of the New York-based group Purpose and was inaugurated by Rio's municipality.
From Syrian Yusra Mardini, who helped rescue some twenty refugees from a sinking boat, to Congolese Popole Misenga, who witnessed his mother's murder and lost all contact with the rest of his family, Team Refugees' athletes have impressed the world.
While their participation is a feat in and of itself, Mardini and Misenga went the extra mile and both made their Olympic debuts with a win. Mardini won her first race, but failed to qualify to the next round. Misenga won his first bout and lost the next.
The team also shed light on the refugee crisis plaguing the world, calling for immediate action .
For years, people roaming the streets of Rio will stop and ask about those faces.
"These are the faces of hope. These are the faces of, you know, struggle,” said one of the organizers.
“These are the faces of overcoming that struggle.”