Refugee Olympic athletes speak


This video says about itself:

Meet the Olympics’ first #TeamRefugees

7 June 2016

For the first time in history, a team of refugees who have fled their homes in search of safety will be competing at the Olympics. The 10 athletes on #TeamRefugees were recently chosen and will compete in the summer games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

From the United Nations Refugee Agency:

These 10 refugees will compete at the 2016 Olympics in Rio

For the first time, a team of refugee athletes will compete under the Olympic flag.

By: UNHCR

3 June 2016

Since the modern Olympics began in 1896, over 200 national teams have vied for glory at the Summer and Winter Games. Now, for the first time, a team of refugees will compete as well.

The International Olympic Committee today announced the selection of 10 refugees who will compete this August in Rio de Janeiro, forming the first-ever Refugee Olympic Athletes team. They include two Syrian swimmers, two judokas from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a marathoner from Ethiopia and five middle-distance runners from South Sudan.

“Their participation in the Olympics is a tribute to the courage and perseverance of all refugees in overcoming adversity and building a better future for themselves and their families,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. “UNHCR stands with them and with all refugees.”

The initiative comes at a time when more people than ever – 59.5 million at last count – are being forced to flee their homes to escape conflict and persecution. The squad representing them in Rio hopes to give the world a glimpse of their resilience and untapped talent.

Meet #TeamRefugees:

Rami Anis, 25, Syria, 100-metre butterfly

Rami Anis started formal swimming training as a 14-year-old growing up in Aleppo. He credits his Uncle Majad, who swam competitively in Syria, with instilling a passion for competing in the water. “Swimming is my life,” Rami says. “The swimming pool is my home.”

As bombings and kidnappings in Aleppo grew more frequent, his family put him on a flight to Istanbul to live with an older brother who was studying Turkish. “The bag I took had two jackets, two t-shirts, two trousers – it was a small bag,” Rami recalls. “I thought I would be in Turkey for a couple of months and then return to my country.”

“The swimming pool is my home.”

As months turned to years, he used the time to hone his swimming technique at the prestigious Galatasaray Sports Club. Yet without Turkish nationality, he was unable to swim in competitions. “It’s like someone who is studying, studying, studying and he can’t take the exam.”

Determined to prove himself, Rami rode an inflatable dinghy to the Greek island of Samos. Eventually he reached the Belgian town of Ghent, where he’s been training nine times a week with former Olympic swimmer Carine Verbauwen.

“With the energy I have, I am sure I can achieve the best results,” he says. “It will be a great feeling to be part of the Olympics.”…

Paulo Amotun Lokoro, 24, South Sudan, 1,500 metres

Just a few short years ago, Paulo Amotun Lokoro was a young herder guarding his family’s few cattle on the plains of what is now South Sudan. He says he “knew nothing” of the world except his own homeland, which had been at war for almost all his life. The effects of that conflict pushed him to flee to neighbouring Kenya, where he has developed new, grand ambitions: “I want to be world champion,” he says.

Living in a refugee camp, Paulo excelled in school sports, ultimately gaining a spot on the refugee squad now training near Nairobi under the guidance of Tegla Loroupe, the renowned Kenyan runner who holds several world records. “Before I came here I did not even have training shoes,” he says. “Now we have trained and trained, until we see ourselves at a good level, and now we know fully how to be athletes.”

“Before I came here, I did not even have training shoes.”

The effort paid off: Paulo is going to Rio. “I am so happy,” he says. “I know I am racing on behalf of refugees. I was one of those refugees there in the camp, and now I have reached somewhere special. I will meet so many people. My people will see me on the television, on Facebook.” Still, his aim is simple: “If I perform well, I will use that to help support my family, and my people.” …

Yusra Mardini, 18, Syria, 200-metre freestyle

As the flimsy vessel started taking on water, Yusra Mardini knew what to do. Stranded off the Turkish coast with about 20 other desperate passengers, the teenager from Damascus slipped into the water with her sister, Sarah, and began pushing the boat towards Greece.

“There were people who didn’t know how to swim,” says Yusra, who represented Syria at the FINA World Swimming Championships in 2012. “It would have been shameful if the people on our boat had drowned. I wasn’t going to sit there and complain that I would drown.”

Yusra lost her shoes during that perilous sea crossing – a small price to pay for making sure lives were not lost. After arriving on the Greek island of Lesvos, she travelled north with a group of asylum-seekers, occasionally turning to people-smugglers.

“I want to show everyone that, after the pain, after the storm, comes calm days.”

Not long after arriving in Germany in September 2015, she started training with a club in Berlin, Wasserfreunde Spandau 04. Now 18, she is preparing to compete in the women’s 200-metre freestyle event at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil, as part of the Refugee Olympic Athletes team.

“I want to represent all the refugees because I want to show everyone that, after the pain, after the storm, comes calm days,” she says. “I want to inspire them to do something good in their lives.”

Yiech Pur Biel, 21, South Sudan, 800 metres

Yiech Pur Biel knew early on that if he wanted to make it in life, he would have to do so on his own. Forced to flee the fighting in southern Sudan in 2005, he ended up on his own in a refugee camp in northern Kenya. He started playing football there, but grew frustrated at having to rely so much on his teammates. With running he felt greater control over his own destiny.

“Most of us face a lot of challenges,” says Yiech. “In the refugee camp, we have no facilities – even shoes we don’t have. There is no gym. Even the weather does not favour training because from morning up to the evening it is so hot and sunny.”

“I can show to my fellow refugees that they have a chance and a hope in life.”

Yet he stayed motivated. “I focused on my country, South Sudan, because we young people are the people who can change it,” he says. “And secondly, I focused on my parents. I need to change the life they are living.”

Competing in the 800 metres at Rio, Yiech says, could help him to become an ambassador for refugees everywhere. “I can show to my fellow refugees that they have a chance and a hope in life. Through education, but also in running, you can change the world.”

Rose Nathike Lokonyen, 23, South Sudan, 800 metres

Until a year ago, Rose Nathike Lokonyen barely knew the talent she had. She had never competed, even as an amateur, after fleeing war in South Sudan when she was 10 years old. Then, during a school competition in the refugee camp in northern Kenya where she lives, a teacher suggested that she run a 10-kilometre race. “I had not been training. It was the first time for me to run, and I came number two,” she says, smiling. “I was very surprised!”

Rose has since moved to a training camp near the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, where she is preparing to run the 800-metre event at the Olympics. “I will be very happy and I will just work hard and prove myself,” she says. She sees athletics not only as an avenue to earning prize money and endorsements, but also as a way to inspire others. “I will be representing my people there at Rio, and maybe if I succeed I can come back and conduct a race that can promote peace, and bring people together.”

“I will be representing my people there at Rio.”

She is still worried about injuries, however. “That is my main challenge,” she says. Until recently, she was not training with professional running shoes, and had no professional guidance. She still seems surprised that, in little over a year, she has risen to this point. “I can do running as sport or, now I see, even as a career.”

Yonas Kinde, 36, Ethiopia, marathon

On a hill overlooking the city of Luxembourg, Yonas Kinde glides around the running track with determination and grace.

“I get power, and more and more power,” the Ethiopian marathoner says afterwards, a wide smile breaking out over his slender face. “I normally train every day, but when I heard this news [about the refugee team] I trained two times per day, every day, targeting for these Olympic Games. It’s a big motivation.”

Yonas, who has lived in Luxembourg for five years now, rarely stops moving. He’s been taking French classes regularly, and driving a taxi to earn a living, all the while pushing himself to become a better runner. In Germany last October, he completed a marathon in the impressive time of 2 hours and 17 minutes.

“We can do everything in the refugee camp.”

But memories of fleeing his home remain uncomfortable territory. “It’s a difficult situation,” he says about life in Ethiopia. “It’s impossible for me to live there… It’s very dangerous for my life.”

For Yonas, the chance to run with the world’s best in Rio de Janeiro is much more than another race. “I think it will be the big message that refugees, young athletes, they can do their best,” he says. “Of course we have problems – we are refugees – but we can do everything in the refugee camp, so it will help refugee athletes.”

Anjelina Nadai Lohalith, 21, South Sudan, 1,500 metres

Anjelina Nadai Lohalith has not seen or spoken to her parents since she was six years old and was forced to flee her home in southern Sudan. As war closed in on her village, “everything was destroyed,” she says. Anjelina has heard that they are still alive, although “last year the hunger was very tough.” Helping her parents is her main motivation as she steps up her training ahead of competing in the 1,500-metre event in Rio.

As war closed in on her village, “everything was destroyed.”

She knew she was good at athletics after winning school competitions at the refugee camp where she now lives in northern Kenya. But it was only when professional coaches came to select athletes for a special training camp that she realised just how fast she was. “It was a surprise,” she says.

Now she wants to run well in Rio de Janeiro, and then earn places at major international races with significant prize money. “If you have money, then your life can change and you will not remain the way you have been,” Anjelina says. The first thing she would do with a big win? “Build my father a better house.”

James Nyang Chiengjiek, 28, South Sudan, 800 metres

At age 13, James Nyang Chiengjiek fled his home in what was then southern Sudan to avoid being kidnapped by rebels who were forcibly recruiting child soldiers. As a refugee in neighbouring Kenya, he attended school in a highland town known for its runners and joined a group of older boys training for long-distance events. “That’s when I realised I could make it as a runner – and if God gives you a talent, you have to use it,” he says.

At first, he did not have proper running shoes. Sometimes he borrowed footwear from others, but he won no matter what he wore on his feet. “We all of us got a lot of injuries because of the wrong shoes we had,” he says. “Then we were sharing. If maybe you have two pairs of shoes, then you help the one that has none.”

“By running well, I am doing something good to help others.”

When he goes to Rio, James aims to inspire others. “By running well, I am doing something good to help others – especially refugees,” he says. “Maybe among them are athletes with talent, but who did not yet get any opportunities. We are refugees like that, and some of us have been given this opportunity to go to Rio. We have to look back and see where our brothers and sisters are, so if one of them also has talent, we can bring them to train with us and also make their lives better.”

Alex Court contributed reporting from Belgium and Luxembourg, Luiz Godinho and Diogo Felix from Brazil, Josie Le Blond from Germany and Mike Pflanz from Kenya.

Refugee team, first at Brazil Olympics


This video says about itself:

18 March 2016

Yusra has dreamt of the Olympics for years. Now a refugee in Germany, she hopes to qualify to compete at the Games in Brazil.

“I want to represent all the refugees because I want to show everyone that, after the pain, after the storm, comes calm days,” she says. “I want to inspire them to do something good in their lives.”

In 2016 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) identified Yusra and 42 others for its team of Refugee Olympic Athletes. If she achieves a qualifying time, Yusra will be among between five and 10 finalists to be announced in June.

None of these athletes would normally be able to participate in the Olympics because their status as refugees has deprived them of a home country to represent. The IOC says the team will march just behind the Olympic flag, and ahead of their Brazilian hosts, at the opening ceremony on 5 August.

Determined Yusra has an extraordinary story – she has already swum to save her life and others – after her overcrowded boat from Turkey failed, she swam to Lesvos, Greece. Yusra’s determination determination and strength saved the lives of 20 other refugees.

Read more here.

From the McClatchy media in the USA:

June 3, 2016 1:26 PM

‘No home, no team, no flag’: first refugee team to compete in Rio Olympics

10 athletes are on the inaugural refugee team

They will compete in swimming, running and judo events

“I will win a medal, and will dedicate it to all refugees”

By Teresa Welsh

Yusra Mardini swam for her life from a sinking vessel in the Mediterranean Sea. Now, she’ll be swimming for the gold in Rio.

Mardini, 18, fled the Syrian civil war via sea vessel from Turkey’s shores. When the flimsy boat started taking on water, the swimmer jumped in the water with her sister and began pushing it to the Greek island of Lesvos.

“There were people who didn’t know how to swim,” Mardini said of the approximately 20 other passengers. “It would have been shameful if the people on our boat had drowned. I wasn’t going to sit there and complain that I would drown.”

Mardini, who will swim the 200-meter freestyle, is part of the first refugee team to compete in an Olympic Games. She and nine other athletes selected by the International Olympic Committee will comprise the inaugural refugee team, allowing those from war-torn nations to compete with the world’s best in their sports. Two Syrian swimmers, five South Sudanese track athletes, two judokos [sic; judokas] from the Democratic Republic of Congo and an Ethiopian marathon runner will be on the team.

Brazil, Olympic games and coup


This video from the USA says about itself:

In Wake of Coup, Should Brazil’s Olympics Be Moved or Become a Site of Protest?

1 June 2016

In early August, more than 10,000 athletes across the world will convene in Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic City for one of the most widely watched sporting events of the year. This comes as Brazil is battling an economic recession, a massive Zika outbreak and its worst political crisis in over two decades.

Protesters have vowed to flood the streets during the Olympics, using the global spotlight to highlight a raft of domestic grievances including threats to social services, police violence, forced displacement and the recent ouster of democratically elected President Dilma Rousseff. We speak to Dave Zirin, author of the book “Brazil’s Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, the Olympics, and the Fight for Democracy,” and Jules Boykoff, author of “Power Games: A Political History of the Olympics.”

Olympic Games history, new book


This video from the USA says about itself:

John Carlos, 1968 Olympic U.S. Medalist, on the Sports Moment That Changed The World. 1 of 2

12 October 2011

Almost half a century after his famous raised-fist salute at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, John Carlos has authored a new memoir with sports writer Dave Zirin, “The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment That Changed the World.” Olympic medal winners in the 200 meter race, John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their fists in the Black Power salute during the national anthem at the Olympic prize ceremony as a protest against racism in the United States.

Seen around the world, the Black Power salute on the Olympic medal stand sparked controversy and an eventual career fallout. “I wasn’t in there for the race, I was there to make a statement,” Carlos told Democracy Now! in an interview Oct. 12 with Dave Zirin. “I was ashamed of America for America’s deeds — what they were doing in history as well as what they were doing at that time.”

This video is the sequel.

By Jamie Johnson in Britain:

How Olympic ideal became corrupted

Tuesday 26th April 2016

Power Games: A Political History of the Olympics
by Jules Boykoff
(Verso, £11.99)

THE OLYMPIC Games have not always been the commercialised economic and undemocratic juggernaut of modern times which, awash with corporate sponsorship, rides roughshod over host communities.

But, historically, it has been a clandestine, elite-driven organisation with regressive policies, a huge price tag and ever-strengthening ties to capitalism.

The St Louis games of 1904 were even bedevilled by so-called “anthropology days,” with events rigged to test racist hypotheses showing that “savages” were inferior.

Women’s participation in track and field events shamefully lagged behind the introduction of female suffrage.

Fortunately, the Olympics’ chequered history has been accompanied by a catalogue of progressive radical protest.

Pre-empting Tommy Smith and Don Carlos’s black power salute at their medal ceremony in Mexico 1968, Irish athlete and staunch nationalist Peter O’Connor — selected to represent Britain— climbed the flagpole to rip down the union flag and fly his Irish alternative after winning silver in the Athens 1906 long jump. Suffragettes targeted the golf tournament at London’s 1908 games.

In developing his theory of “celebration capitalism,” which gives the mainstream media something to cheer about every four years, Boykoff firmly places the five-ringed circus as a central cog in a destructive neoliberal machine and finds much to admire in the alternative, yet short-lived, International Workers’ Olympiads.

And he demonstrates how the Olympics are an incredible but fundamentally unsustainable sporting event, an over-budget corporate franchise purchased with public money, directly transferring wealth to private hands.

British taxpayers footed 88 per cent of London 2012’s costs but received few positive long-term benefits. When even The Economist claims that hosting the Olympics is bad for a city’s health, something is clearly wrong.

Enjoyable and informative, Power Games is an even more relevant read in the build-up to this summer’s first-ever Latin American Olympics.

Disabled Syrian refugee will carry Olympic torch


This video says about itself:

Disabled Syrian Refugee to Carry Olympic Torch

22 April 2016

A victim of the war in Syria will take part in the Olympic torch relay in Greece to raise awareness of the plight of refugees from his homeland.

Race, film about athlete Jesse Owens


This october 2015 video from the USA is called Race Official Trailer #1 (2016) Stephan James, Jason Sudeikis Biographical Drama Movie HD.

By Alan Gilman and David Walsh in the USA:

Race: Jesse Owens and the 1936 Berlin Olympics

10 March 2016

Directed by Stephen Hopkins; written by Joe Shrapnel, Anna Waterhouse

Race chronicles the storied athletic career of Jesse Owens, which culminated in his four gold medal performance at the 1936 Nazi-sponsored Berlin Olympics.

Directed by Stephen Hopkins, the film begins in 1933 with a young Owens (Stephan James) arriving at Ohio State University to run track. Owens is immediately confronted with racial bigotry, particularly from members of the all-white football team.

His track coach, Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis), recognizes Owens as an extraordinary talent. Snyder impresses on the youthful athlete that if he demonstrates single-minded, fanatical focus he will be unstoppable, not only on the college level, but also at the 1936 Olympic Games to be held in Berlin.

Owens follows Snyder’s advice, despite the pressures of fatherhood (he has a baby daughter with his girlfriend, Ruth Solomon (Shanice Branton). He quickly becomes a top collegiate track athlete, and in 1935 at a meet in Ann Arbor, Michigan performs the astonishing feat of breaking three world records (long jump, 220-yard dash and 220 low hurdles) and tying a fourth (100-yard dash) in 45 minutes. This is widely considered one of the greatest single-day performances in athletic history.

Meanwhile, a campaign is underway within the American Olympic Committee, led by Judge Jeremiah Mahoney (William Hurt), to boycott the Berlin Games because of Nazi racism and anti-Semitism.

Avery Brundage (Jeremy Irons), a builder and real estate developer, and future International Olympic Committee president, leads the anti-boycott forces. Brundage shrugs off Germany’s anti-Semitic and racial issues, “It’s not our place to tell a sovereign nation what to do, and besides, when was the last time any of you nay-voters socialized with a Jew or a Negro?”

To help resolve this dispute Brundage agrees to embark on a fact-finding mission to Germany and meets with Joseph Goebbels (Barnaby Metschurat), the Nazi propaganda minister, who “promises” the Germans will not discriminate against any athlete, including Jews. With this agreement in hand, Brundage is able to defeat the boycott forces by a vote of 58 to 56.

Later, during the Olympics, when the Germans break their promise not to discriminate, Goebbels quickly puts an end to Brundage’s feeble protests by threatening to expose a commercial agreement—essentially a bribe—the two parties have entered into.

Other groups, including the NAACP, continue to support boycotting the Olympics, and place pressure on Owens. Ultimately, with the support of his family, he decides to go to the 1936 Games.

In Berlin, Owens is surprised to find that within the Olympic Village the American athletes are housed in integrated housing, something that never occurred in the US. Outside the Olympic venue, however, we see scenes of Jews being beaten and rounded up by the Nazis.

Owens proceeds to win four gold medals, in the 100-meter dash, 200-meter race, long jump and 400-meter relay. He is the most successful, and wildly popular, athlete at the Games and is credited with having delivered a devastating blow to the Nazi myth of “Aryan supremacy.”

In one of the more poignant scenes in the film, German long jumper Carl “Luz” Long (David Kross), the European champion, befriends Owens. After Owens fouls on the first two of his three attempts to qualify for the long jump, Long marks a spot several inches in front of the takeoff board, pointing out to Owens that if he takes off from there he will still jump far enough to qualify. Owens does just that and then goes on to defeat Long, who wins the silver medal.

Long is the first to congratulate Owens after the event, shaking his hand. The pair pose for photos and run a victory lap together.

That evening Long explains to Owens that he detests the Nazis for what they are doing and that many other Germans feel the same. At the end of Race there is an acknowledgement that Owens and Long continued their friendship for several more years and that the German athlete was killed in Sicily during World War II.

Owens’ last race is the 4 x 100 relay, an event that he has not trained for and is not scheduled to run. He participates because the team’s only two Jewish athletes, Marty Glickman (Jeremy Ferdman) and Sam Stoller (Giacomo Gianniotti), are benched at the last minute, on the demand of the German authorities. (Glickman went on to become one of the most prominent and talented American sportscasters in the postwar period, the voice of several New York sports teams, only retiring in 1992.)

As the film ends, a title notes that Owens was never invited to the White House or congratulated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

There are some valuable elements and moving moments in Race. The story of Owens’ accomplishments, in the face of considerable odds, inevitably touches on some significant historical questions.

Jesse Owens was the youngest of 10 children born to Mary Emma Fitzgerald and Henry Cleveland Owens, a sharecropper, in Oakville, Alabama. His impoverished family took part in the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to the Northeast, Midwest and West, moving to Cleveland’s east side in the early 1920s. Owens’ father and older brother worked in steel mills, the former only irregularly.

As the result of his athletic prowess, Owens stumbled onto the stage of world politics in the 1930s. The opposition of Avery Brundage, head of the Olympic movement in the US, to a boycott of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, held under the aegis of the Nazi regime, had a significant ideological and political content.

Historian Carolyn Marvin explains that the foundation of Brundage’s world outlook “was the proposition that Communism was an evil before which all other evils were insignificant.” His other views or beliefs included “admiration for Hitler’s apparent restoration of prosperity and order to Germany,” the conception “that those who did not work for a living in the United States were an anarchic human tide, and a suspicious anti-Semitism which feared the dissolution of Anglo-Protestant culture in a sea of ethnic aspirations.” Brundage described opposition to American participation in Berlin as a “Jewish-Communist conspiracy.”

The vile machinations of the Hitler regime in regard to the Olympics are also part of the historical record. The leading Nazi newspaper, the Völkischer Beobachter, editorialized in the strongest terms that no Jews or blacks from any country should be permitted to compete. Faced with the possibility of an international boycott, however, the Nazi government relented, even adding one token participant, a female fencer with a Jewish father, to the German team.

The fascist regime also temporarily took down signs denouncing Jews from areas of Berlin where visitors were likely to see them. The German Ministry of the Interior instructed the city’s police to round up all Romani as part of a “clean up” and place them in a concentration camp. Pro-Nazi director Leni Riefenstahl was in charge of filming the Olympics (she is portrayed ambiguously in Race by Carice van Houten), and produced her grandiose two-part documentary, Olympia (1938).

Racism and the Depression in the US, fascism and anti-communism, the run-up to the Second World War … big issues all of them.

Hopkins’ Race refers directly to a few of these questions, hints at others and merely side-steps another category.

The film suffers from a generally formulaic approach. James and Branton as Jesse Owens and Ruth Solomon are given little dramatic room to breathe. Their conventional, roller-coaster relationship does not shed much light on their personalities or the nature of the times. Nor does Owens’ affair with a woman he meets on the road as a now-famous athlete or his relations with his coach help out much. There is something hagiographic about the presentation of Owens in particular, although certain of his failings come in for treatment.

The general dramatic arc of Race is predictable—initial difficulties, first successes, crisis and failure, final triumph. Even if the viewer did not know ahead of time how Owens would ultimately fare in Berlin, he or she would have little difficulty in seeing what was coming.

Sudeikis is more impressive as Snyder. The actor-comic has performed amusingly in a number of works, but smugness (for example, in the Horrible Bosses films) has threatened to sabotage his efforts. Here he is relatively convincing as Owens’ hard-driven, but fair-minded coach. Irons is always on the mark, although the portrayal of Brundage is not as devastating as it might have been. Kross (The Reader) is memorable as Luz Long, as is Metschurat as the menacing, monstrous Goebbels and Andrew Moodie, in a small part, as Owens’ long-suffering father.

To its credit, the film is not laced with identity politics, but a more “old fashioned” liberal humanism. Race, despite its title, preaches a sort of solidarity of Jews, blacks and anti-Nazi Germans against Hitler and pro-fascist Americans.

There are distinct limitations to this approach. Hopkins’ presentation of various racist and anti-Semitic incidents, although moving, is largely devoid of any historical content or deeper understanding of the social forces involved.

The weakest aspect of Race is its attitude to the various questions of political or moral principle that arise: the first involves US participation or boycott of the Berlin Olympics; the second, Owens’ decision to go or stay home; and, finally, the exclusion of the Jewish athletes from the relay race and the response of the rest of the American Olympic team.

In each case, Hopkins and screenwriters Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse create justifications for the various, often self-serving decisions taken by the characters, thus allowing the narrative to move forward toward its inexorable conclusion.