Up to 10 refugees to compete at Rio Games: IOC

Wed Mar 2, 2016 2:08pm EST
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By Karolos Grohmann

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) - A team of refugees that will compete at this year's Rio de Janeiro Olympics could number as many as 10 athletes, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach on Wednesday.

The team, which was officially approved by the IOC Executive Board and called Team of Refugee Olympics Athletes (ROA), will be made up from a pool of 43 prospective Olympians, already identified by the IOC and supported with funds to train.

Nomination criteria included sporting level, official United Nations-verified refugee status and personal situation and background, the IOC said.

"We have no target," Bach said when asked how many athletes would be in the team.

"It depends very much on the sporting qualifications. This team may end up between five and 10 athletes maybe."

Hundreds of thousands of refugees, many from Syria, have crossed via Turkey and Greece into Europe.

The plight of those fleeing conflict, as well as economic migrants escaping poverty, has polarized opinion in Europe, with the amount of new arrivals stretching the European Union's asylum system.

"By welcoming ROA to the Olympic Games in Rio, we want to send a message of hope to all the refugees of the world," Bach said.   Continued...

Olympic mascots are seen at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro's Sambadrome February 7, 2016.   REUTERS/Sergio Moraes