If they had a home, refugees would belong to the world’s 24th most populous nation, just behind Italy. On Tuesday, there were honored as members of the Olympic family.
The Olympic flame, on a 106-day journey from the game’s ancient birthplace in southern Greece to Rio de Janeiro, made a symbolic stop at a United Nations-run refugee camp in Athens. The torch was carried by Syrian refugee Ibrahim Al-Hussein.
The 27-year-old ran with a prosthetic limb fitted below his right knee, and said he was thrilled to get the invitation.
"This is such an honor for me. This is for every Syrian and ever Arab who has gone through so much," Al-Hussein said afterward, following chaotic scenes at the camp as he was surrounded by cameramen and refugees using smartphones to take photos and selfies.
"My message to them is not just to stay in refugee camps and to do nothing, but to go after their dream."
IOC President Thomas Bach visited the Athens camp in January to promote a refugee sports program, aimed at identifying elite competitors who can qualify for a refugee team to compete in the Rio Games.
A team of 5 to 10 athletes is scheduled to be selected by the IOC in early June. The refugee team will march behind the Olympic flag in the opening ceremony on Aug. 5.
At the camp, Guinean refugee Sekou Sanogo played soccer with friends and said he was happy to see the torch relay pass through.
"It think it’s a good thing," he said. "There are so many journalists here - I hope it will help us."
© Copyright 2019 The Saudi Gazette. All Rights Reserved.