From Congo to Brazil, refugee lives Olympic dream

Fri Jun 3, 2016 6:15pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Pedro Fonseca and Pilar Olivares

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Growing up as an orphan in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, Popole Misenga never imagined he would be competing in the Olympic Games in his adopted city of Rio de Janeiro, much less for a new refugee team.

But on Aug. 5, the 24-year-old judo fighter will march alongside nine other refugees from Syria, South Sudan, Ethiopia and his native DRC at the opening ceremony. Then he will compete with them under the Olympic flag.

"I never expected this," he told Reuters at the gym in a poor neighborhood of Rio where he trains. "In Congo, there’s a lot of violence, a lot of war, a lot of confusion ... I decided to stay in Brazil to find a better life."


The Reuters Wider Image photo essay can be seen at: here


Misenga came to Brazil in 2013 for a judo championship. The trip was an opportunity to leave his home country, where decades of war have cost millions of lives. His own mother died when he was 8 years old.

Along with compatriot Yolanda Mabika, who will also compete for the Olympic refugee team in judo, Misenga fled the hotel where they were staying. Knowing no one and speaking no Portuguese, he spent some time living on the streets before finding shelter among a small community of Congolese in a favela, or slum, in northern Rio.   Continued...

Popole Misenga, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo and a judo athlete, poses at the entrance of his home in a slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares