Syrian refugee carries Olympic Torch in Athens and calls for end to all wars
Ibrahim Al-Hussein, a swimmer whose Olympic dream seemed to have ended when he lost part of his leg in a 2012 bombing, was surrounded by hundreds of refugee children as he carried the most iconic of Olympic symbols for a few hundred metres on Tuesday (26 April) in the Eleonas camp for refugees and migrants in Athens, Greece.
Surrounded by journalists from all over the world, the Syrian refugee said it had been a “great honour” to represent all refugees by carrying the Rio 2016 Olympic Torch.
“I wish that all wars would end and that everyone can go back to their homes in peace”
The Eleonas camp in Greece is currently home to over 1,600 people, including Al-Hussein.
The symbol of the Olympic Games also visited the headquarters of the United Nations (UN) in Geneva, Switzerland last week (29 April). UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the Olympic movement was an important partner of the UN.
“Sports give children the basic human right of being children who can, at least for a few moments, laugh and play,” he said. “The world is looking forward to the Rio Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games, which also embody the values of the United Nations.”
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) already announced a plan for a special refugee team to compete at the Rio 2016 Games.
Ban Ki-moon, who as a child fled the fighting of the Korean War, said he would be cheering for the refugees with all his might during the Games. “The world will see refugees the way they deserve to be seen: as talented, strong and inspiring people. Win or lose, they are champions of the spirit,” said Ban Ki-moon
A message of inclusion
One of the highlights of the ceremony at the UN was a speech by Brazilian Paralympic tennis player Natália Mayara, who told dignitaries about the importance of sport in her life and about the need for equality. “I am the same as anyone else. We are not different to anybody,” she said. “Sport has shown me that my disability was not a limiting factor.”
IOC President Thomas Bach said that the IOC wanted to send to a message of hope to refugees around the world and show them that they are not forgotten. “In our fragile world, the Olympic values of solidarity and peace are more important than ever,” he said.