The President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, visited the Open Reception Centre for refugees in Eleonas, Athens, yesterday. President Bach was accompanied by Jacques Rogge, Honorary IOC President and Special Envoy for Youth Refugees and Sport appointed by the United Nations Secretary. Patrick Hickey, IOC Executive Board Member and President of the European Olympic Committees (EOC), and Pere Miro, Deputy Director General Olympic movement relations, were also part of the IOC delegation that met Spyros Capralos, President of the Hellinic Olympic Committee (HOC), and the Mayor of Lesvos, Spyros Galinos.
The HOC Refugee Support Programme recently built four basketball courts in the largest refugee camp in Athens, which houses between 750 and 1000 refugees. The IOC has also supplied sports equipment, jackets and 600 pairs of running shoes in partnership with TOP Sponsors P&G of Greece. Personal hygiene kits will also be provided.
As well as assisting the refugee camp in light of the current global refugee crisis, IOC has created a special fund to develop relief projects through sport in collaboration with National Olympic Committees (NOCs) around the world.
With the help of the NOCs the IOC is in the process of identifying athletes, who are affected by the worldwide refugee crisis, to try and help these individuals to take part in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro 2016. A trio of athletes who have fled their home countries have already been identified as potential Olympic contenders including a female swimmer from Syria presently in Germany, a male Congolese judoka in Brazil and a female Iranian taekwondo fighter now in Belgium. In cooperation with the relevant International Federations (IFs) the IOC is now evaluating these athletes.
The visit of Thomas Bach and Patrick Hickey to Athens highlights the many initiatives put forward by organised sport, both on national and European level, which aim to welcome and support refugees as well as help them to integrate and thrive – both in a sporting sense and in society generally.