The team, created by the International Olympic Committee for the 2016 Games in Rio, is meant to give an opportunity to athletes forced to flee their home countries. Four years ago, the team had 10 members. In Tokyo, it will have 29, six of whom competed in Rio.
The athletes come from 12 different countries: Afghanistan, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, the Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Venezuela. They will partake in 12 different sports, including swimming, wrestling and taekwondo.
The team’s presence at both the Opening Ceremonies and the Games at-large was thrown into question earlier this month when a team official at the group’s training site in Qatar tested positive for coronavirus.
On Sunday, the team got the green light to start traveling to Japan. While many travel plans were delayed, all 29 athletes made it to Tokyo by Thursday, the day before the Opening Ceremonies.
In a speech during the Opening Ceremonies, IOC President Thomas Bach offered the team a special welcome.
“With your talent and human spirit, you are demonstrating what an enrichment refugees are for society,” Bach said. “You had to flee from your homes because of violence, hunger or just because you were different. Today, we welcome you with open arms and offer you a peaceful home. Welcome to our Olympic community.”