Olympic Refuge Foundation Supports Refugees
The Olympic Refuge Foundation (ORF) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) have signed a new, historic Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), expanding their collaboration and reiterating their commitment to using sport to protect and assist young people affected by displacement all around the world.
The MoU was signed on Wednesday in Madrid at the offices of the Spanish Olympic Committee, during a meeting of the ORF Foundation Board. It happened shortly after it was revealed that the ORF and the IOC Refugee Olympic Team had received the esteemed 2022 Princess of Asturias Award for Sport.
Since the ORF’s founding in 2017, and the IOC since 1994, UNHCR has collaborated extensively with both organisations. The MoU expands on this collaboration by creating a framework within which the ORF and UNHCR can work together to use sport as a tool for protection, solutions, resilience- and peace-building, inclusiveness and social cohesion, physical and mental health and well-being, and.
Olympic Refuge Foundation
According to IOC President and ORF Chair Thomas Bach, “In these trying times, we need the mission of sport to promote peace and solidarity more than before. “ The UNHCR has been a dependable collaborator in carrying out this task. I am incredibly thankful to Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner, for extending his support for the IOC Refugee Olympic Team as soon as it was established.
When they ask refugees what they need most, after food and shelter, our UNHCR partners have repeatedly told us that the answer is almost invariably sports, Bach continued. “Sport is about much more than just physical activity, which is why. Sport gives people power. Sport promotes diversity. Sports foster respect. Health is sport. Sport boosts self-confidence. Sport promotes an optimistic outlook. Giving hope through sport to individuals uprooted by conflict, persecution, or calamity is what the ORF’s purpose is all about,” he said in his conclusion.
“At this challenging time, when for the first time more than 100 million people have been forced to escape their homes, and where reactions to crises in the Global North and Global South are highly uneven, it is imperative that we work together to find solutions to these problems.
Expanding partner network
The ORF’s partnership-based approach and the rising number of stakeholders it has gained through the Sport for Refugees Coalition were both topics of discussion by the Foundation Board. The Coalition was established during the first Global Refugee Forum in December 2019 by the IOC, the ORF, and the UNHCR. It is now co-convened by the ORF, UNHCR, and the SCORT Foundation and has more than 80 members from more than 30 countries.
The ORF also formed a Think Tank in 2020 made up of impartial experts from top universities, NGOs, UN organizations, the corporate and public sectors, and youth advocates who have lived experience. In the Forced Migration Review in 2021, the ORF Think Tank presented a draught position paper on physical activity, mental health, and psychosocial issues.
Enhancing collaboration with athletes
The ORF’s leadership in organizing the IOC Refugee Olympic Team Paris 2024 and collaborating with Olympic Solidarity to implement the Refugee Athlete Scholarship programme were among topics covered by the Foundation Board.
Whether or not the refugee athletes are chosen to compete in the Olympic Games, the ORF will still support them. The Foundation Board decided that the assistance will consist of, but not be limited to:
- Assisting international federations in amending their bylaws to permit the participation of athletes who have fled persecution;
- Fostering synergies with the ORF’s other areas of operation by managing ties with NOCs and refugee athletes;
- Esuring that athletes have access to resources for assistance with changing careers and perhaps prospects for relocation.
The first refugee sports training facility
The decision to have the Foundation Board meeting in Madrid was appropriate given that the Getafe neighbourhood will soon be home to the Alejandro Blanco Sports Centre for Refugees, which will be launched by the Spanish Olympic Committee in 2021. Nearly a year after it opened, the facility is already being used by 200 refugees.
An MoU was signed by the ORF, the Spanish Olympic Committee, and the Spanish Ministry of Inclusion, Welfare, and Immigration at the conclusion of the meeting, committing cooperation to promote the center and maximize its impact.
President Bach stated that “our celebration today goes beyond the official signing of an MoU.” It draws attention to the Olympic Movement’s broader goal of creating a better and more peaceful world.
“We can develop from a solid base here, especially thanks to the efforts of the Alejandro Blanco Sports Centre, the only facility of its sort where migrants can engage in sports and also learn how to integrate into their neighbourhoods. It is a fantastic illustration of how we can use sport to help the refugee situation, said Bach. We are thrilled that the Spanish government is collaborating with us for all of these reasons. This partnership agreement is a significant accomplishment and a tangible illustration of our Olympic objective.
Following the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding, Board members visited the facility to see how it was helping athletes integrate depending on their respective sports.