Masomah Ali Zada on her bicycle.

Road cyclist and Tokyo 2020 Refugee Olympic Team member Masomah Ali Zada, originally from Afghanistan, trains near her home in Lille, France. © UNHCR/Benjamin Loyseau

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, celebrates today’s announcement by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) of the Tokyo 2020 Refugee Olympic Team. After years of training, 29 refugee athletes will head to Tokyo in July to participate at this summer’s games. They will compete in 12 Olympic sports in the Games, sending a powerful message of solidarity and hope to the world this summer, bringing further awareness to the plight of over 80 million displaced people worldwide.

“I am thrilled to congratulate each of the athletes who have been named in the Tokyo 2020 Refugee Olympic Team,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, who is also Vice Chairman of the Olympic Refuge Foundation (ORF).

“They are an exceptional group of people who inspire the world. UNHCR is incredibly proud to support them as they compete at the Tokyo Olympics. Surviving war, persecution and the anxiety of exile already makes them extraordinary people, but the fact that they now also excel as athletes on the world stage fills me with immense pride.

“It shows what is possible when refugees are given the opportunity to make the most of their potential. These athletes embody the hopes and aspirations of the more than 80 million people around the world who have been uprooted by war and persecution. They serve as a reminder that everyone deserves the chance to succeed in life.”

This will be the second time a Refugee Team has participated in the Olympic Games, following the first at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016.

As part of its more than 25-year partnership with the IOC, UNHCR works with the IOC and the ORF to harness the power of sport to help create a world where every person forced to flee can build a better future. Together with the IOC, the ORF, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and other partners, UNHCR is leading the global call for a world in which all displaced people, including those with disabilities, can equally access and participate in sport.


  • The refugee team members as announced by the IOC can be found HERE
  • For profiles of all athletes, click here.
  • For a selection of press artwork, click here.
  • For The Journey video, depicting the stories of the Refugee Team, click here.

For all media enquiries about today’s announcement by the IOC please contact:

For UNHCR media queries, please contact 

Photos of Refugee Olympic Team athletes can be ordered using this link. You may need to create a profile on Refugees Media to be able to order. Orders are answered quickly.

Originally published by UNHCR on 8 June 2021.

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