Refugee athletes see Rio as chance to call for peace

Fri Jun 10, 2016 9:50am EDT
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By Isaack and Omulo

NGONG (Reuters) - Angeline Nadai Lohalith's wish is to see peace in South Sudan so that she can represent her war-torn country of birth at the Olympic Games.

But Lohalith will be marching under the banner of the Refugee Olympic Team (ROT) when the 2016 Games start in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 5.

The refugee team, set up by the International Olympic Committee, is the first of its kind and it will march with the Olympic flag just before host Brazil at the opening ceremony.

Five of its 10 members were drawn from the Kakuma and Daadab refugee camps in northern Kenya. They will act as a symbol of hope and bring attention to the plight of refugees worldwide, the IOC says.

"Some years to come, I will like to represent South Sudan," Lohalith, who will run in the 1,500 m, said in an interview.

"If there was peace in our country, at least the youth could have been able to develop their talent and represent it in the Olympics just like other people,” the 22-year-old said.

She was speaking at the Anita Children’s Home, a Catholic Church-run institution 20 km south of Nairobi, which has been the athletes' home since they relocated from Kakuma.

The IOC gave Kenyan marathon legend Tegla Loroupe the task of identifying talented athletes and training them for the Olympics.   Continued...

Athletes from South Sudan, part of the refugee athletes who qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics, and their training partners run along a dusty road during a jogging session at their camp in Ngong township near Kenya's capital Nairobi, June 9, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya