- Title: Rio Olympics "gave us a chance to live our dreams", refugee athlete says
- Date: 28th September 2016
- Summary: (SOUNDBITE) (English) SOUTH SUDANESE REFUGEE OLYMPIC ATHLETE WHO COMPETED IN THE 800M IN RIO 2016, ROSE NATHIKE LOKONYEN, SAYING: "Me being a flag bearer, my experience in Rio, it was amazing because I represented the millions of refugees all over the world, and the people all over the world welcomed us warmly, and to tell us we feel we are the human beings like others. So being a refugee, we can do what other people are doing." LOROUPE SEATED NEXT TO U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL SPECIAL ENVOY FOR YOUTH REFUGEES AND SPORT, JACQUES ROGGE (SOUNDBITE) (English) INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE PRESIDENT, THOMAS BACH, SAYING: "Sport can heal wounds. Sport has the power to bring people together - as you were kindly quoting Nelson Mandela in this respect - can bring people together no matter what their background, or where they come from. Sport always builds bridges, sport never erects walls. In the Olympic world, there is one, one universal law for everybody. In the Olympic world, we are all equal." U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL SIDE EVENT ONGOING
- 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: LVA00351HEB0N
- 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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