- Title: Rio Olympics "gave us a chance to live our dreams", refugee athlete says
- Date: 28th September 2016
- Summary: VIDEO DISPLAYED BY THE U.N. DURING THE EVENT OF LOKONYEN TRAINING IN KENYA
- Embargoed: 13th October 2016 17:36
- Keywords: Unites Nations refugees migrants sports IOC Thomas Bach Rose Nathike Lokonyen Rio Olympics Tegla Loroupe Refugee Olympic Team
- Location: GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
- City: GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
- Country: Switzerland
- Topics: Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA00451HEB0N
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: South Sudanese refugee and Olympic athlete Rose Nathike Lokonyen told a United Nations conference on Wednesday (September 28) that competing in the Rio 2016 Olympics and being able to be a flag bearer was a life-changing experience, one which gave a team of refugees "a chance to live our dreams."
The event, attended by IOC President Thomas Bach as well as top officials from UNHCR, took place in the form of a conference and was aimed at highlighting the importance of sports as a tool to promote local integration and enhance the protection of refugees and migrants.
During this year's games, a team of refugees, hand-picked by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and dubbed the Refugee Olympic Team (ROT) included five athletes from South Sudan, two from Syria, two from Democratic Republic of Congo and one from Ethiopia.
The athletes, six men and four women, competed in the sports of swimming, judo and athletics. Lokonyen competed in the 800m race.
Lokonyen, 23, fled war-torn South Sudan to Kenya in 2002 when she was eight years old. Since then, she spent the past years in the refugee camp of Kakuma in northern Kenya, where 180,000 displaced people are still living.
Though Sudanese customs forbid girls from participating in events and attending school, Lokonyen forced herself to take part in activities and even played football. She then began running.
In 2015, the Tegla Loroupe Foundation for Peace held trials in refugee camps. Rose believed she could compete and was eventually selected to train at the foundation in Nairobi with four other South Sudanese refugees.
More than a million refugees streamed into Europe in the past year alone as they fled fighting in Syria and other countries.
Millions more are housed in camps in countries across the world, having escaped dozens of wars or armed conflicts in their home nations.
The IOC decision to include an entire refugee team made of athletes with different nationalities was unique.
Bach said the IOC was committed to continuing its work with the U.N. to build safe spaces through sports wherever refugee and migrants camps could be found.
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