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  • International Paralympic Committee Confirms Plans To Create A Refugee Team


    The International Paralympic Committee has confirmed plans to send up to six athletes to the 2020 Paralympic Games as part of a Refugee Paralympic Team. The IPC will also work with its commercial partners  and the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, to create awareness of the plight faced by refugee athletes and to send a message of hope to the almost 80 million forcibly displaced people worldwide.

    Ileana Rodriguez, a former refugee and a London 2012 Paralympian, has been appointed Chef de Mission for the Refugee Paralympic Team. Speaking on her appointment, Rodriguez said, “It is an honour to be appointed by the IPC for this role. As a former refugee who was lucky enough to compete in the Paralympics, I appreciate the value of having a Refugee Paralympic Team - it represents sports beyond nationalities and our athletes who will compete in Tokyo will be a symbol of hope for other refugees around the world.” 

    She further commented on her appointment saying, “We will also be proud to represent the legacy of Sir Ludwig Guttmann. He was a refugee who found a new home to welcome him and repaid that kindness by helping create one of the world’s great movements, the Paralympic Movement. I hope the RPT (Refugee Paralympic Team) will encourage others around the world to support refugee athletes and give them the platform to raise awareness of the plight faced by all refugees.” Rodriguez will work with the IPC to select the athletes who will form the Refugee Paralympic Team for Tokyo 2020.


    According to the IPC, in order to be considered for the team, athletes must have confirmed refugee status in accordance with international, national and regional law. They will be subject to selection by the IPC and/or their international federation, primarily based on their performance and them meeting the eligibility criteria. The IPC has yet to select any athletes for the Refugee Paralympic Team that will compete at Tokyo 2020.

    The IPC will offer a range of in and out of competition support to prospective refugee para athletes. The IPC will help prospective athletes meet the qualification target and eligibility criteria for the Games, provide funding for athletes to attend Tokyo 2020 qualification events, support athletes to prepare for competition, provide coaching support, support up to six athletes selected for Tokyo 2020 with their participation at the Paralympic Games, and provide legacy support that will help refugee para athletes compete in further competitions through to the end of 2021. 

    Additionally, the IPC will work in close collaboration with UNHCR to leverage both, the Refugee Paralympic Team and the Paralympic Games, in order to send a strong message of support to all refugees and others who have been forced from their homes by conflict and persecution. According to the IPC, while all refugees face significant challenges, those with disabilities are frequently at heightened risk and face barriers to accessing assistance, services, and opportunities. Together with UNHCR, the IPC will continue to promote the active inclusion and full participation of refugees with disabilities in society through para sport.


    Dominique Hyde, Director of the Division of External Relations at the UN Refugee Agency, added, “Despite living a razor-edge existence and facing challenges to their training routines due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the resilience and determination of these refugee athletes continues to shine through. UNHCR is delighted to support this initiative of the International Paralympic Committee. It will showcase the incredible abilities of these refugee Paralympians who have overcome, at times, insurmountable obstacles to reach the pinnacle of sport for all athletes.”

    The Refugee Paralympic Team builds on previous refugee initiatives created by the IPC. At the 2016 Paralympic Games, a two-person team of refugee and asylee athletes formed the Independent Paralympic Athletes Team. The athletes were: Ibrahim Al Hussein of Syria, who competed in the 50m and 100m S10 freestyle swimming events, and Shahrad Nasajpour of Iran, who competed in discus F37. Neither of the athletes won medals, but they did win over the hearts spectators at the Games.


    With just under 300 days to go until the 2020 Paralympic Games, preparations for the rescheduled Games are in full swing. The rescheduled 2020 Paralympic Games are slated to begin with the opening ceremony on August 24, 2020.



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