A YOUNG Syrian refugee, 12-year-old Hanan Dacka, was chosen to carry the Olympic Torch through Brasilia on the first leg of its journey across Brazil.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is also creating a team of refugees to compete in the Games under an Olympic flag.
”By carrying the Olympic Torch, people from all over the world will know that refugees are real people, and that we can do positive things,” Miss Dacka said this month.
Miss Dacka, who is now at school in São Paulo, after her family fled to Brazil, jogged with the torch along a packed street as crowds cheered. The Dacka family fled their home in Idlib, Syria, three years ago.
They spent two-and-a-half years at the Zaatari refugee camp, in Jordan, before travelling to Brazil under its humanitarian-visa programme, last year. So far, about 8000 visas have been issued by the Brazilian authorities to refugees from Syria.
Miss Dacka was chosen by the Rio 2016 Organising Committee after her name was put forward by the UN refugee agency UNHCR. She is the second refugee to carry the flame, after her compatriot Ibrahim Al-Hussein bore the torch through a centre for refugees in Athens, last month.
The flame, which reached Brazil last weekend after a stop in Switzerland, will pass through 300 towns and cities on its way to the opening ceremony on 5 August at the Maracanã Stadium in Rio, where it will light the Olympic cauldron.
The 2016 Olympics will be the first to host a team of refugees, officially created on 3 March by the Executive Board of the IOC.
The team of up to 43 high-performance athletes — whose names have yet to be confirmed — are to receive the same treatment as all other Olympic teams, including a place in the opening ceremony, the IOC has said. The team will subject to the IOC’s anti-doping policy, and have its travel and participation expenses paid for. It will compete under the flag of the IOC.
The UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon, said that he would “cheer them with all my might. . . The team gives the opportunity to talented athletes who were forced to flee their homes to chase gold.” He was speaking at a “Celebrating the Olympic Spirit” event in Geneva, last week.
“The world will see refugees as they deserve to be seen — as talented, strong, inspiring people. Win or lose, they are champions of the Olympic Spirit. Let us all be on the team of refugees until there is no need for a refugee team,” he said.