For the first time in history, athletes without a country will be competing as a part of the Olympics. They will be welcomed as team “Refugee Olympic Athletes” (ROA). Plans were announced at the United Nations General Assembly in October. After identifying 43 athletes, 10 were chosen for the team by the International Olympic Committee. The team consists of men and women refugees: 5 runners from South Sudan, 2 swimmers from Syria, 2 judokas from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and 1 runner from Ethiopia. IOC President Thomas Bach stated, “By welcoming the team of Refugee Olympic Athletes to the Olympic Games Rio 2016, we want to send a message of hope for all refugees in our world.” The refugees are staying with the other athletes in the Olympic Village.
Yusra Mardini, a refugee from Syria, found sanctuary in Germany, after swimming through the icy waters of the Mediterranean and landing on the Greek island of Lesbos. She and 20 other migrants were in a small boat that began sinking, after the motor stopped and the boat began to deflate. She and her sister were two of the only ones who could swim. They jumped in the icy waters and pushed the boat for three and a half hours until they reached land so the others would not drown. Mardini stated, “I want to represent all the refugees because I want to show everyone that, after the pain, after the storm, comes calm days. I want to inspire them to do something good in their lives.”
During the Opening Ceremony, the Refugee Olympic Athletes walked into the stadium behind the Olympic flag. They were welcomed with a standing ovation and cheers only exceeded by the ones for the host country of Brazil.
Photo credit: Andrea Creath
As the cameras pan the skies of Rio de Janeiro, one of my favorite sights is the art deco statue of Jesus, “Christ the Redeemer.” Jesus’ outstretched arms seem to welcome all to the great city of Rio. What a wonderful reminder that Jesus’ outstretched arms are available anywhere, anytime, to anyone as He offers welcome, salvation, solace, protection, and love to all. As His followers, may we too be quick to have welcoming arms and hearts to those around us.
Lord, through all the generations you have been our home!
Psalm 90:1 (TLB)
Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,
Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
I Peter 2:11, 12