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UNHCR deputy chief hails refugee team as ‘true Olympians’

The Refugee Olympic Team poses with UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Kelly Clements and staff in Rio’s Olympic Village. © UNHCR

The Refugee Olympic Team poses with UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Kelly Clements and staff in Rio’s Olympic Village. © UNHCR

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil—Hailing the first-ever refugee team as “true Olympians”, UNHCR Deputy High Commissioner Kelly T. Clements has praised its 10 members of for helping to change world’s perception of refugees.

“This team has captured the world’s attention and in a short period of time, changed the conversation about refugees… There is no doubt that they have left a legacy with their presence at these Olympic Games, but they have also inspired all of us to do more to work for peace and help those forced to flee,” she said.

Clements, who enjoyed breakfast with the team and their support staff at the Rio’s Olympic Village on Saturday, said she was blown away by the refugee team’s “extraordinary talent, determination, and a past that unfortunately 65 million people share.”

She said taking part was as important as any result.

“The Olympic spirit is really the way one competes, and how one presents his or herself,” she said. “And these athletes were true Olympians in terms of how they’ve cheered on others, how they made friends with people from all over the world.”

Now, she admitted, attention turns to the future and said both the International Olympic Committee and UNHCR would remain committed to supporting the athletes’ future.

“There is no doubt that they have left a legacy with their presence at these Olympic Games, but have also inspired all of us to do more to work for peace and help those forced to flee,” Clements added. “The IOC and UNHCR will continue to work together to provide opportunities for these refugee athletes and others to help find a future in the face of adversity.”

By: Luiz Godinho