Syrian refugee wins Olympic swimming heat

This video says about itself:

Yusra Mardini: A Refugee at the Olympics

6 August 2016

First she had to swim to Greece to save her life, now she is swimming for the gold at the Olympics: meet Yusra Mardini of Syria, competing for the Refugee Olympic Team.

Rio Olympic games 2016: Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini, who saved 20 lives crossing the Mediterranean, wins 100m butterfly heat.

From daily The Independent in Britain today:

Perhaps the happiest tale of the day was that of swimmer Yusra Mardini who is representing the Refugee team under the Olympic flag and won her 100m butterfly heat to huge cheers in the pool at the Aquatics Stadium in Rio.

Her time wasn’t enough to win her a place in the semi-finals but it won the hearts of the spectators and is the latest chapter in an incredible story. Mardini, 18, and her sister fled war-torn Syria a year ago and travelled through Lebanon and Turkey before trying to reach Greece by a boat fit for six but carrying 20 people.

The motor failed and Mardini jumped in and swam for three and a half hours, pulling the boat and stopping it from capsizing before reaching land on the island of Lesbos where she could barely stand. She was given asylum in Berlin where her swimming talents were spotted and that led to Rio and Saturday’s sterling effort. She goes again on Wednesday in the freestyle heats.

MEET TEAM REFUGEES “Team Refugees, the Olympic Games’ first ever team of refugee athletes, received a standing ovation on Friday night when they entered the stadium during the games’ opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. ” [HuffPost]

Yet the opening days of the Summer Olympic Games indicated that the authorities have zero tolerance for even minimal forms of protest (people holding signs protesting current “interim president” Michel Temer have been expelled from stadiums) and have brought back memories for many of the methods employed during the 21 years of dictatorship (1964-1985), when democratic rights were under constant attack and bloody police repression was an everyday affair. Democratic rights, in Brazil and elsewhere, are fast becoming “a dead letter”: here.

Sleepless Nigerian Olympic footballers still win

Nigeria's first goal

This photo shows Nigeria (in green shirts)’s first goal in the Olympic football match against Japan in Brazil.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Today, 09:53

The soap opera surrounding the Olympic football team of Nigeria ultimately did not break the team. Although the plane with the Nigerians landed only six hours before kickoff in Manaus they won the first Olympic match there, 5 goals against 4.

This means maybe only four hours or less sleep or other rest for the Nigerian footballers.

Japan was the opponent in the hot and humid city in the Amazon.

Last week, there was a threat that the Nigerian selection would not reach Brazil in time. First there were problems with the payment of the plane tickets, then the flight was canceled because the plane was supposedly too small, then the team for a few days was unable to proceed beyond the airport in Atlanta in the USA.


After eight hours of flying, the team finally arrived in host city Manaus, where Japan was the first opponent of the 1996 Olympic champions (in Atlanta!). The game had an exciting first fifteen minutes with four goals: 2-2. Shortly before the break, Nigeria thanks to Oghenekaro Etebo for the third time went ahead.

The 20-year-old midfielder from Portuguese club Feirense, who had scored 2-1 as well, scored two more goals after the break. Japan came back to 4-5, but the tying goal was too late (five minutes into extra time) in order to make for a serious hunt for a draw.

See also here.

One should hope the Nigerian footballers will now get some well deserved good nights’ sleep. To be able to show what they are capable of, not only in bad circumstances, but in good circumstances as well.

Yusra Mardini: Olympic Syrian refugee who swam for three hours in sea to push sinking boat carrying 20 to safety: here.

Usain Bolt, other Jamaicans, arrive at Rio Olympics

This video from Brazil says about itself:

3 August 2016

Usain Bolt and his Jamaican teammates arriving at 2016 Olympic village in Rio.

SENATORS JOIN FIGHT FOR EQUAL PAY FOR WOMEN’S SOCCER STARS “Two U.S. senators on Wednesday renewed their efforts to scrutinize why players on the U.S. women’s national soccer team earn less than their male counterparts, just hours before the USWNT begins its run at a fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal.” [HuffPost]

Olympic cycling training on Ameland island

This 20 July 2016 Dutch video is about Bauke Mollema, a participant in the cycling road race of the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. The video shows him training on Ameland island, where his family is originally from.

This video says about itself:

Rio all set to host the Olympic games

29 July 2016

Four years later, it’s time for London to hand over to Rio. But people in London still remember the 2012 games.

This video says about itself:

Olympic dream crashed

29 July 2016

Indian wrestler Narsingh Yadav and shot putter Inderjeet Singh have tested positive for a banned substance and their chances of representing India at the Rio Games are almost over.

Japanese Olympics boss demands nationalism of athletes

This video says about itself:

Patriotism in Japanese schools breeds controversy

23 April 2008

REPORT: Singing the pre-World War II national anthem in schools is compulsory since a few years, but some parents and teachers worry about patriotism becoming nationalism.

This national anthem, which is not about the Japanese people but about the emperor, is controversial in Japan. Hundreds of teachers have been punished for not singing it; some have committed suicide.

From AFP news agency:

4 July 2016 – 18H25

Tokyo 2020 boss tells Japan athletes don’t ‘mumble’ anthem

TOKYO – The gaffe-prone Tokyo 2020 chief has warned Japan’s Olympic team not to “mumble” the national anthem, saying those who can’t sing it properly don’t deserve to represent the country.

Former prime minister Yoshiro Mori, who heads up the committee for the 2020 Games hosted by Tokyo, was speaking at Sunday’s send-off event for the 300 Japanese athletes heading to next month’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

“When you go up the podium, please do not be mumbling but sing the national anthem loudly,” Mori said.

“Athletes who cannot sing the anthem should not be considered to be Japan’s representatives,” he added, according to the Asahi newspaper.

Mori turns 79 this month and served a short one-year stint as prime minister in 2000 to 2001, a tenure mostly remembered for a series of public blunders.

In 2014, he came under fire after criticising Japanese figure-skating heroine Mao Asada after a disappointing performance at the Sochi Olympics.

He also criticised Japan’s ice dance pairing, Cathy and Chris Reed, saying: “They live in the US. We let them be part of the Japanese team because they are not good enough (to represent the United States)”.

THE ONGOING SEXUAL ABUSE IN COMPETITIVE GYMNASTICS USA Today investigates how the Olympic gymnastics pipeline favors coaches instead of gymnasts in abuse cases. [USA Today]

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.


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.

Refugees team primed to pump up feel-good factor at Rio Olympics: here.