Olimpiada Rio 2016

'The Olympics Could Be a Game-Changing Moment in Our Lives,' Says Syrian Refugee

Two swimmers, refugees from Syria, will compete in the Olympic Games in Rio. They do not expect to win any medals, however have said that the Games will be a momentous occasion in their lives.

Following an unprecedented decision from the International Olympic Committee, ten refugees will compete under the olympic flag. They will be the first delegation to parade behind Brazil in the opening ceremony in the Maracanã.

The swimmers, Yusra Mardini, aged 18, and Rami Anis, aged 25, were the first of the group to arrive at the Athletes Village. On Wednesday (27), they completed their first training session.

The athletes have been friends since they were just three years old. They used to train together for the national Syrian team. Their lives were turned upside down in 2011, when popular uprisings, inspired by the Arab Spring in Egypt and Tunisia, escalated and led to the breaking out of a violent civil war in their country.

During four and a half years of conflict, at least 250,000 Syrians have been killed and 11 million have been forced to leave their homes.

Rami was 20 years old when war broke out. He already showed great potential in the 100m butterfly but, afraid of being called up to fight by the regime, he left the country with his family and sought refuge in Turkey. Yusra left the capital Damasco in 2015, with the resurgence of war. She fled to Berlin with her sister.

As refugees, they have permission to live with refugee status in the countries where they first immigrated. However, they do not receive citizen status in these countries.

"Participating in the Olympics is an opportunity to show we are all just people. Refugees are people like everyone else out there, who, before fleeing, had lives, past and futures, families and jobs," said Yusra. "We are more than just refugees. This is a momentous occasion, because it is an opportunity to change the way people perceive us."

This Friday (29) the rest of the delegation will arrive in Rio: five runners from South Sudan, a marathon runner from Ethiopia, and two Judo competitors from the Democratic Republic of Congo.


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