After his father was killed in a conflict, Jamal Abdelmaji Eisa Mohammed fled his home in Darfur, Sudan, leaving his mother and siblings behind. His only concern was staying alive.
The idea of ever competing in a major event like the Olympics could not have been even in his wildest dreams as he traveled through Egypt and the Sinai Desert before arriving in Israel.
However, being a refugee no longer means being in no man’s land when it comes to the opportunity to compete in the Olympics. This was after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced in 2015 that for the first time, refugees from around the world would be afforded an opportunity to take part in the Rio Olympics.
An initiative widely welcomed by the sporting community from around the world, the team was set up by the IOC to raise awareness of the magnitude of the global refugee crisis. It was first announced to the world by President Bach at the 2015 UN General Assembly.
The goodwill has since carried on into the Tokyo 2020 Olympics where 29 refugee Olympic athletes competed in 12 sports.
Ahead of World Refugee Day on 20 June, the IOC announced that 44 Refugee Athletes had been awarded Olympic Scholarships to help them train towards the goal of being selected for the IOC Refugee Olympic Team Paris in two years’ time.
They will hope to become the first group to get a medal for the more than 26 million refugees around the world.
“We welcome you to the Olympic community and wish you luck in qualification. I know what a difficult period it is to go through to qualify for the Olympic Games, and so we admire how you are meeting the challenge given all the difficulties you have overcome,” said IOC President, Thomas Bach.
According to the IOC statement, the scholarships which are fully funded by the IOC through its Olympic Solidarity program for athletes who are refugees will give the athletes the support they need to train and compete in qualification competitions in the run-up to the Olympic Games Paris 2024.
Coming from Afghanistan, Cameroon, Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraq, the Islamic Republic of Iran, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Venezuela, the Refugee Athlete Scholarship recipients are competing in athletics, badminton, boxing, canoeing, cycling, judo, karate, shooting, swimming, taekwondo, weightlifting and wrestling.
Their refugee status has been confirmed by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and they are being supported by 16 host NOCs (Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Portugal, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, Turkey, United States of America, and Uruguay).
The composition of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team Paris 2024 will be announced in 2024.
The team will compete in Paris under the acronym EOR, which stands for Equipe Olympique des Réfugiés.