Refugee Team to Compete at 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games

Organizers of the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games have confirmed that a refugee team will be taking part at Ashgabat 2017.

Organizers of the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games to be held in the Turkmenistan capital of Ashgabat from 17–27 September have confirmed that a refugee team will be taking part at Ashgabat 2017.

In the Olympic spirit of solidarity and uniting the world under the banner of sport, a team comprising of four refugee athletes will be one of the 65 delegations participating in the biggest ever multi-sport event to be staged in Central Asia.

The Chairman of the 5th AIMAG Executive Committee, Dayanch Gulgeldiyev, said it was decided to have a refugee team after seeing their inclusion at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

"We saw what a positive affect the Refugee Olympic Team had at Rio 2016," he said. "We thought it would be wonderful to include a delegation of athletes at Ashgabat 2017 because of the reception they received. We wanted to follow the lead of the International Olympic Committee in highlighting the plight of refugees in the world."

They will be guided at Ashgabat 2017 by Chef de Mission, Tegla Loroupe, a Kenyan Olympian who is also a United Nations Ambassador for Sport and Peace.

Claude Marshall, the Refugee Sport Coordinator for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), said that the 5th AIMAG Executive Committee approached the UNHCR earlier this year about the possibility of fielding a refugee team.

The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR is pleased that a refugee team is participating in the AIMAG, Ashgabat 2017.

"Young refugees are just like other young people," said Marshall, whose job is to provide sport for young people in refugee camps. "They are no different and can compete like anyone else. The only difference is the hell they have been through being a refugee."

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the UNHCR have been working together for the past 22 years to bring sport to refugee camps around the world. The IOC provides the funds to make that happen.

For the first time in the history of Olympics, a refugee team participated at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, a decision that was called "historic" by Thomas Bach, President of the IOC.

The idea came about in 2015 when Bach was touched by the number of refugees fleeing into Europe.

The IOC made the decision as it wanted to draw the attention of the world to the plight of refugees so "it can send a symbol of hope for all refugees in the world" a statement said at the time.

Ten refugee athletes from four countries competed at Rio 2016. There were two swimmer, two judokas, a marathon runner and five middle-distance runners.

At Ashgabat 2017, the Olympic Council of Asia Hymn will be adopted as the refugee team’s anthem.

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