Last week I shared 8 fun facts about the countries in the summer Olympic Games in Rio.  One of those facts was that there are 206 different countries expected to participate.

But I learned something yesterday that slightly changes that number.  There are actually only 205 countries.  The 206th is not an actual country at all, but instead is a group of athletes who will compete as part of the first ever Refugee Olympic Team!

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

You may have seen in the news or on social media that June 20, 2016 was designated at World Refugee Day.  I was curious, so I did a little reading to learn more.

The UN defines a refugee as someone who has left his or her home because of “fear of persecution” due to race, religion, nationality or political opinion.  There are an estimated 65 million people who have been forced to leave their homes globally.

I know refugee status and immigration is a hot topic in the United States these days, and that’s for another day.   If you are interested in learning more, you can visit the UN Refugee Day website or pledge your support  at We stand #WithRefugees.

Now back to the summer games.

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One of the most interesting things I learned from the reading I did on World Refugee Day had to do with the Refugee Olympic Team.

Ten refugee athletes have been selected to compete for the first ever Refugee Olympic Team (ROT).

The athletes (and their country of origin and Olympic sport) are:

  • Rami Anis (M): Syria; Swimming
  • Yiech Pur Biel (M): South Sudan; Athletics, 800m
  • James Nyang Chiengjiek (M): South Sudan; Athletics, 400m
  • Yonas Kinde (M): Ethiopia; Athletics, marathon
  • Anjelina Nada Lohalith (F): South Sudan; Athletics, 1500m
  • Rose Nathike Lokonyen (F): South Sudan; Athletics, 800m
  • Paulo Amotun Lokoro (M): South Sudan; Athletics, 1500m
  • Yolande Bukasa Mabika (F): Democratic Republic of the Congo; Judo -70kg
  • Yusra Mardini (F): Syria; Swimming
  • Popole Misenga (M): Democratic Republic of the Congo; Judo -90kg


You can learn more about these inspiring athletes and their stories in this Refugee Olympic Team article.

Or check out the ROT Athletes YouTube videos if that’s more your thing.

The “team without a country” will be treated like any other team, with a few modifications:

  • The team will march in the opening and closing ceremonies under the Olympic flag;
  • The team will be housed in the Olympic Village like all the other teams;
  • The team will get its own welcome ceremony at the Olympic Village, like all other teams;
  • The team uniforms will be provided by the International Olympic Committee;
  • For all official representations of the team (including possible medal ceremonies), the Olympic flag will be raised and the Olympic Anthem will be played;
  • Olympic Solidarity will cover preparation, travel and other participation expenses for the team and will continue to support the athletes of the team after the Olympic Games;
  • The IOC will continue to support the refugee athletes even after the Olympic Games Rio 2016.


Now I am now looking forward to the summer games even more than I was before!  I’ll be cheering for team ROT right along with Team USA!

How about you?  Are you getting excited?

What team(s) will you be cheering for?


Until next week,