top trumps cards

This year, a special team of athletes is making Olympic history.

Let’s celebrate them with a Top Trumps twist.

Top trump card: Rami Anis: swimming; originally from Syria.

The team, comprised of ten refugee athletes, will not represent their home countries. Instead they will take part under the Olympic flag and compete on behalf of the world’s refugees.

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In many ways this makes sense. The number of refugees in the world – over 60 million – is larger than the populations of many of the competing nations.

Yet in another way this is slightly surprising. Refugees are so often forgotten or maligned – portrayed by the media as a threat rather than something to be celebrated.

Thomas Bach is the international Olympic committee president:

“These refugee athletes will show the world that despite the unimaginable tragedies that they have faced, anyone can contribute to society through their talent, skills and strength of the human spirit.”


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Open water: the story of Olympic swimmer Yusra Mardini

It was 30 minutes into her journey to the Greek island of Lesbos that the panic set in.

The engine of the dinghy that was carrying 20 people – including her family – stopped.

Slowly the boat filled with water.

“I thought it would be a real shame if I drowned in the sea because I am a swimmer,” Yusra told the BBC.

Before anyone could stop her, Yusra jumped into the water, following her sister Sarah. For the next three and a half hours they, along with another young woman, towed the boat towards the shore.

From that day on, Yusra has hated swimming in open water.

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“Me and my sister were holding on to the boat with one hand and doing the breaststroke with the other hand and one leg.

“The last half an hour I couldn’t manage any more, so I got back into the boat. It was so cold.

“I look at the sea now and I just feel faint.”

But Yusra feels more than ready to hit the Olympic pool.

“I think I can do whatever I want to do. You are an athlete, you are not thinking if you are Syrian or from London or from Germany. You will just think about your race.

“You have your lane, your swimming cap, your swimming glasses…that’s it.”



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The Refugee Olympics team in full
  • Rami Anis: swimming; originally from Syria.
  • Yiech Pur Biel: 800m; originally from South Sudan.
  • James Nyang Chiengjiek: 400m; originally from South Sudan.
  • Yonas Kinde: marathon; originally from Ethiopia.
  • Anjelina Nada Lohalith: 1500m; originally from South Sudan.
  • Rose Nathike Lokonyen: 800m; originally from South Sudan.
  • Paulo Amotun Lokoro: 1500m; originally from South Sudan.
  • Yolande Bukasa Mabika: judo; originally from Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • Yusra Mardini: swimming; originally from Syria.
  • Popole Misenga: judo; originally from Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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Supporting refugees around the world

These athletes have escaped the hardship and danger in their home countries. Right now the Red Cross and Red Crescent are delivering essential support to the people in need who are still there. You can find us in Syria, South Sudan, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo – as well as many other countries around the world.

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