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IOC announces hopefuls for Tokyo 2020 refugee Olympic team

Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, gives a speech during a Board Meeting at the new Olympic House of International Olympic Committee on June 18, 2019 in Lausanne, Switzerland. (Getty/Kyodo)

Lausanne, Switzerland (Kyodo) -- The International Olympic Committee on Thursday released a list of 37 refugee athletes receiving support to train in host countries toward qualifying for Tokyo 2020 as part of the second-ever IOC Refugee Olympic Team.

    "With the announcement of the list of Refugee Scholarship-Holders, we want to show that refugees are an enrichment to sport and to society," IOC President Thomas Bach said in a statement.

    The athletes, displaced from countries such as Afghanistan and Syria, include the 10 members of the inaugural refugee team at Rio de Janeiro 2016 as well as 13 new individuals and a group from a training center for refugee athletes in Kenya.

    They are vying for Tokyo qualification in a total of eight sports -- athletics, badminton, boxing, judo, karate, swimming, taekwondo and weightlifting.

    "The team will send a signal of hope to all the refugees around the world and will be a reminder to everybody of the magnitude of the refugee crisis," Bach said in the announcement, timed to mark the annual June 20 observance of World Refugee Day.

    In comments the same day after the conclusion of IOC Executive Board meetings, Bach told reporters the size of the refugee team has yet to be determined, but it is likely to be bigger than the 10-member delegation sent to Rio.

    The IOC plans to announce the final composition of the refugee team in June 2020.

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