Olympic Refuge Foundation to build bonds between Refugee Olympic Team Paris 2024 and displaced communities in Ile de France

AMTV/PARIS, Jun 9 – The IOC Refugee Olympic Team (EOR) will represent 100 million refugees and displaced people around the world at the Olympic Games Paris 2024. The Olympic Refuge Foundation (ORF) will use this opportunity to promote the inclusion of young people affected by displacement through sport in the lead-up to the Games and beyond in the Ile de France region. This was a key area of discussion at the ORF Board meeting held at the headquarters of the Paris 2024 Organising Committee.

After its meeting, the ORF Board, chaired by IOC President Thomas Bach, and Vice-Chair UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, went to visit the ORF’s flagship programme in Paris, Terrains d’Avenir. The programme, which includes a wide range of implementing partners, aims to provide 7,000 young people affected by displacement with access to sport by 2025, and to shape a movement which will continue to have an impact long after the Olympic Games.

Terrains d’Avenir is co-financed by the French Ministry of Sport and the Olympic and Paralympic Games, delivered by Kabubu, PLAY international, Emmaüs Solidarité, Ovale Citoyen, Fútbol Más and the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation, with support from the Ville de Paris, the Paris 2024 Organising Committee, the French National Olympic and Sports Committee (CNOSF) and UNHCR France.

In the lead-up to and during the Games in 2024, the ORF will work to build a strong connection between the EOR, which it manages, and displaced communities living in the Ile de France region. During the visit, ORF Chair Thomas Bach personally invited 10 displaced young people engaged in the Terrains d’Avenir programme to attend an event with him at the Games in 2024 and support the EOR.

President Bach said: “The athletes of the Refugee Olympic Team demonstrate to a global audience that we are all part of the same humanity. Their participation in the Olympic Games is a clear signal that refugees are our fellow human beings – that they are an enrichment to society just as they are an enrichment to our Olympic community. Through its work, the Olympic Refuge Foundation will connect the Refugee Olympic Team at the Olympic Games Paris 2024 with displaced communities, and in particular refugees who live in and around Paris.”

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said: “Sport truly transcends boundaries and brings people together. There are few better ways to support refugees to recover from experiences of trauma and alienation than to include them in their new society through sport – we have witnessed this in action.”

Also announced during today’s Board meeting were seven new Refugee Athlete Scholarship-holders. The seven athletes who are joining the Refugee Athlete Support programme, and who will be aiming to be selected for the Refugee Olympic Team Paris 2024, represent six sports, five host National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and four countries of origin:

Mahdi Ahmadian (table tennis, Iran, host NOC: Austria)
Marzieh Hamidi (taekwondo, Afghanistan, host NOC: France)
Yekta Jamali Galeh (weightlifting, Iran, host NOC: Germany)
Kun Waar Liem (athletics, South Sudan, host NOC: Kenya)
Kiruhura Emmanuel Ntagunga (athletics, Democratic Republic of the Congo, host NOC: Kenya)
Jamal Valizadeh (wrestling, Iran, host NOC: France)
Dorsa Yavarivafa (badminton, Iran, host NOC: Great Britain)

This brings the total number of current Refugee Athlete Scholarship-holders to 53. Since the previous announcement in December 2022, five athletes have moved onto the Athlete Career Transition programme, and are receiving a grant from Olympic Solidarity. The full list of Refugee Athlete Scholarship-holders is available here.

The ORF Board also had the opportunity to watch We Dare to Dream, the independent documentary directed by Oscar-nominated refugee director Waad Al Kateab, which features five athletes on their journey to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. The film will premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York on 11 June. In the spirit of connecting displaced communities with the IOC Refugee Olympic Team, young Terrains d’Avenir participants will be invited to watch We Dare to Dream in Paris in 2024. This will form part of an impact campaign spearheaded by ORF Board member and film producer Joe Gebbia, in partnership with the ORF. The campaign will aim to change the way the world sees refugees and the role sport can have in supporting them.

Making an impact through sport, The Board also discussed the continued growth and ambition for the ORF. In 2022, the Foundation launched three new programmes, in Bangladesh, France and Türkiye, and responded to the Ukraine crisis by launching a pilot programme to meet the mental health needs of Ukrainian refugees.

The ORF will focus attention on the Ukrainian crisis by working with both sports professionals and mental health professionals to train them in a form of psychological first aid adapted to sports settings. This has started in France, Moldova and Poland, where the training sessions have reached 51,000 young people, and the Board committed to scaling this initiative in order to respond to the urgent needs of Ukrainian refugees and the pressing issue of mental health.

Greater refugee participation in organised, safe sport is also an important tool to achieve the aims of the Global Compact on Refugees. Through the Sport for Refugees Coalition, the ORF is working closely with its two co-convenor partners, UNHCR and the Scort Foundation, to develop a Sport Pledge for the Global Refugee Forum in December this year. By placing sport firmly on the agenda of the Forum, and bringing together a diverse range of actors from across the Olympic Movement, civil society, the private sector and the development and humanitarian sectors, the ORF aims to drive commitments create a groundswell which will reach hundreds of thousands of displaced people.

“We warmly welcome the Olympic Refuge Foundation’s commitment to drive this joint pledge around sport and hope other partners will support this effort. The Sport for Refugees Coalition is a fantastic platform and a genuine example of the revised Olympic motto, ‘stronger, faster, higher – together’. Working collectively in this way, we can all bring positive change for displaced people everywhere,” Grandi added.

One million young people affected by displacement to access safe sport by the end of 2024

The ORF has an ambitious goal for one million young people affected by displacement to have access to safe sport by the end of 2024. So far, 215,000 young people have had access to safe sport as a result of ORF programming, and in 2021 and 2022 most of the reach resulted from direct engagement and provision of safe sporting spaces. In the next two years, the ORF aims to achieve exponential growth and reach as a result of plans which were today presented to the Board.

The ORF’s commitment to leveraging sport for the benefit of displaced people was recognised last year when it was awarded the Princess of Asturias Award for Sports.

The ORF Board is chaired by the IOC President, and he is joined by the Vice-Chair, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, and nine other Board members.

In today’s meeting, Felicite Rwemwerika and Josefina Salas were unanimously reappointed to the Board for another four-year term.

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