The list of athletes participating for the Refugee Team in the 2024 Paris Olympics was announced Thursday. Thirty-six athletes, originally from 11 countries and competing in 12 sports, will go for gold under the banner.

According to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), athletes accepted to the Refugee Team were chosen from 70 scholarship applications. Women’s cyclist Masomah Ali Zada, the Refugee Team’s chef de mission originally from Afghanistan, told reporters Thursday that the opportunity to compete as a refugee is liberating for her.

“Having our own emblem creates a sense of belonging and empowers us to also stand for the population of more than 100 million people who share this same experience,” Zada said. “I cannot wait to wear it proudly.”

Athletes on this year’s Refugee Team are originally from Afghanistan, Cameroon, Congo, Cuba, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Venezuela. The vast majority of them fled because of hardships from military conflicts or to escape persecution.

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Since 2016, when the Refugee Team was founded and ten athletes entered the Rio de Janeiro games, no one under the banner has earned a medal. As the program expands and more athletes qualify, this will undoubtedly change. At the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, the Refugee Team featured 29 athletes, and the number is currently set to increase again in 2024.

“We welcome all of you with open arms,” IOC President Thomas Bach said during a virtual meeting with athletes. “You are an enrichment to our Olympic Community and to our societies. With your participation in the Olympic Games, you will demonstrate the human potential of resilience and excellence. This will send a message of hope to the more than 100 million displaced people around the world. At the same time, you will make billions of people around the world aware of the magnitude of the refugee crisis. Therefore, I encourage everyone around the world to join us in cheering for you – the IOC Refugee Olympic Team.”

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