A team of refugees will take part in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro for the first time in the history of the competition, according to the International Olympic Committee.
The committee is currently undergoing the process of identifying athletes living in forced displacement who have the potential to qualify for the Olympics, IOC President Thomas Bach announced during his visit to a refugee camp in Greece last Thursday.
As the displaced athletes have no home country or national committee to represent, they will be competing under the Olympic Flag and will therefore march behind the flag at the opening ceremony of the Olympics next summer in Rio.
During his visit to the Athens open reception center, Bach also announced that the Olympic torch will be brought from Olympia, the ancient Greek site where it is lit each round, to the refugee camp.
One of the refugees will carry the iconic torch in a symbolic gesture, given the prominent role Greece has played in the refugee crisis in recent years.
The country has become a main stopover for millions of refugees enduring the treacherous feat of crossing the Mediterranean to flee the Middle East's conflict zones.
Bach originally proposed the idea of allowing athletes who are refugees to compete in the Olympic Games last October at the United Nations General Assembly. It had convened at the time to adopt a resolution urging all countries to stop fighting and commit to a truce during the Rio games.
"This will be a symbol of hope for all the refugees in our world and will make the world better aware of the magnitude of this crisis," Bach had said, as he called on the 193 member states to help the IOC to find excellent athletes who are refugees.
Following Bach's appeal, three refugees were identified as potential contenders and their evaluation started. These include a female swimmer from Syria presently in Germany, a male Congolese judoka in Brazil; and a female Iranian taekwondo fighter now in Belgium.
The IOC created a $2 million fund last September to provide sports facilities and organize related programs to aid refugees worldwide.
This fund has been made available to various National Olympic Committees around the world, including the Hellenic Olympic Committee in Greece. The committee helped build numerous sports facilities in the country's refugee camps, including the one Bach visited Thursday.
“By providing these sports facilities we want to give some hope to these refugees. We want to give them at least a little joy of life in these difficult circumstances," Bach said in the Athens camp.
"We want to give them the opportunity to mix with each other. Here you saw refugees from Syria, from Mali, from Sierra Leone, from Iran, from Iraq, all playing together with us, and really showing a small Olympic community here in this camp.”