BERLIN: The refugee team that will compete at the Tokyo Olympics will be finalised in June from a group of 55 athletes preparing in 12 sports, the International Olympic Committee said on Wednesday.
The IOC unveiled its first team of refugees at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016 in an effort to raise awareness of the issue, and it became one of the feel-good stories of those Games.
The 10-member team from Syria, Congo, Ethiopia and South Sudan at those Games were in the spotlight after marching into the stadium for the opening ceremony at the Olympic stadium in Brazil. They competed in athletics, swimming and judo.
"Olympic solidarity is supporting 55 promising refugee athletes from 13 countries and being hosted by 21 National Olympic Committees across all five continents, representing 12 sports," IOC President Thomas Bach told a virtual news conference.
The IOC has said the refugee team in Tokyo will be larger than in Rio.
"The final composition will be announced in June and based on number of criteria, including athletes' sporting performance but also qualification as refugees status," Bach said.
More than a million refugees entered Europe in 2016 alone as they fled fighting in the Middle East and elsewhere, prompting the IOC to create the first Olympic refugee team.
Tens of millions more are housed in camps in countries across the world, having escaped wars or armed conflicts in their home nations.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Ed Osmond)