The 2024 Paris Olympic Games are approaching in earnest. Athletes worldwide will compete for medals across the long list of Olympic sports. But what about those displaced from their home countries due to geopolitical conflict, natural disaster, or civil revolution?
Nike, the equipment provider for Team USA and other nations, has long sponsored Olympic training camps for refugee athletes. The company has worked with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the United Nations (UN) as early as 2007 to set up these camps. Often, those fleeing their home nations lack opportunity and access to Olympic standard facilities, coaches, and other resources that give developed countries more of an edge in the competition.
Nike is continuing its refugee sponsorship program with a France-based refugee Olympic camp ahead of the Paris Games.
The goal is to expand access to sports for girls and young women who didn’t get the same treatment in their countries of birth.
“Globally, girls face complex cultural and social barriers and, as a result, are moving the least. Girls enter sports later and drop out earlier — at twice the rate of boys. Our support of the Olympic Refuge Foundation aims to change that for displaced girls,” Vanessa Garcia-Briton, Nike’s chief social & community impact officer, said in a press release.
The camp was made possible by efforts from Terrains d’Avenir, a French program to increase inclusivity in sports. More than 12,000 athletes, mainly refugees, benefit directly from the program. This campaign was started by the French Ministry of Sport and funded by the Olympic Refuge Foundation (ORF), which also financing the Nike camp.
Photo Courtesy Anthony Soberal
“The refugee Athletes we support demonstrate the resilience and courage of 110 million people who have been forced to flee their homes — they are role models inspiring millions around the world,” Jojo Ferris, head of the ORF, said in a press release. “Sport has the potential to improve mental health and rebuild a sense of belonging for all displaced people and their communities. In all this work, the Olympic Refuge Foundation greatly appreciates the collaboration with Nike.”
Several other sports inclusion nonprofits work with Terrains d’Avenir, such as PLAY International, Parisian sports club Kabubu, Futbol Mas, Ovale Citoyen (an inclusive rugby foundation), anti-homeless nonprofit EMMAÜS Solidarite, and the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation.
Nike will donate money to the ORF for uniforms and training gear for the Refugee Athlete Scholarship holders and the IOC Refugee Olympic Team competing at the Paris games.
To date, 63 Refugee Athlete Scholarship holders are supported through the program and training hard for the IOC Refugee Olympic Team selection in Paris 2024.
Competitors from 12 countries that live in 23 host countries and represent 13 sports are preparing for the largest international sports competition. It only comes every four years, so opportunities are scarce.
The ORF has been active since 2017, following the successful participation of the Refugee Olympic Team at Rio 2016. This effort is the first ORF program in Europe.
“Their participation in the Olympic Games is a clear signal that refugees are our fellow human beings — that they are an enrichment to society just as they are an enrichment to our Olympic community,” Thomas Bach, IOC president, said in a statement.