A small group of refugee and asylee Para athletes will compete as part of an Independent Paralympic Athletes (IPA) team at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, it has been announced today.
The team, due to be named later this month, will compete under the Paralympic flag, and will march first at the Opening Ceremony on September 7.
For official presentations, such as medal and village welcome ceremonies, the Paralympic anthem will be played.
The team will be accompanied in Rio de Janeiro by a Chef de Mission, coaches and support staff, and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) says it will cover their travel and other associated expenses.
Before they arrive, the IPA team will undergo medical checks and receive anti-doping education.
Upon arrival in Rio de Janeiro, they will stay in the Athletes’ Village alongside more than 4,300 athletes from around 160 countries.
Following the Games, the development arm of the IPC, the Agitos Foundation, will provide long-term support.
“As the world’s number one sporting event for driving social inclusion, the Paralympic Games have long been an important symbol for the promotion of human rights,” said IPC President Sir Philip Craven.
“Given the current crisis in which millions of people around the world have been displaced and affected by war and conflict, this is the moment to shine a light on the people with impairments affected, as well as highlight the broader situation.
“Through their performances those competing in the IPA team will stand for courage, determination, inspiration and equality on a global stage.
“They will show to the world what can be achieved by the strength of the human spirit.”
Para-athletes have competed as independents at the Paralympic Games before, but this is the first time those with refugee and asylee status have been given special attention.
National Paralympic Committees approached the IPC when they became aware of Para-athletes who were refugees or asylees training in their countries.
In order to compete in the IPA team at Rio 2016, those nominated must have official refugee status verified by the United Nations and must also possess the relevant travel documentation.
The IPC says it has been assisting the individuals with this process as well as classification where required.
The IPA team stands in solidarity with the International Olympic Committee’s Refugee Olympic Team.
On Sunday (July 31), Tegla Loroupe, Chef de Mission for the 10-strong Refugee Olympic Team that will make a historic first appearance at the Rio Olympics, said he wants to extend the training system that has produced the team’s five track athletes for another five years to offer other talented refugees the opportunity to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Volker Wagner – the German coach who guided Loroupe to marathon wins in London, New York and Berlin – has directed the training camp at Ngong, near Nairobi, which has produced the five South Sudanese athletes picked for Rio from a group of more than 30 refugees who were spotted during trials held by the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation in the Kakuma refugee camp in north-west Kenya.
By Daniel Etchells
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz