The International Olympic Committee on Tuesday named 29 athletes originating from 11 countries to the Refugee Olympic Team of this summer's Tokyo Games, nearly three times larger than the first-ever squad at the previous 2016 sporting extravaganza.
The athletes, who fled from countries including Syria, Iran and South Sudan, will participate in 12 sports, the IOC said in a statement. They will arrive in Tokyo after gathering in Qatar in mid-July and will be hosted by Waseda University to train before entering the athletes' village.
At an online ceremony to announce the athletes, IOC President Thomas Bach said the team coming together with other athletes in Tokyo will "send a powerful message of solidarity, resilience and hope to the world."
Syrian swimmer Yusra Mardini, who swam part of her journey fleeing to Europe, will be among the six athletes in Tokyo who belonged to the inaugural Refugee Olympic Team at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
At the previous Summer Games, 10 athletes, originally from Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, participated in three sports.
The 29 were selected from a group of refugee athletes receiving financial assistance from the IOC, based on a number of criteria, such as their sporting performance and balanced representation of gender and regions, the IOC said.
Tegla Loroupe, a former women's marathon world record holder from Kenya, will head the team for the second games. The team will be the second delegation to march at the National Stadium during the opening ceremony on July 23.
Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Japanese organizing committee, welcomed the announcement of the team composition in a statement, saying its participation will "draw the world's attention to the issue of refugees and further advance efforts to achieve world peace."
The IOC decided in 2018 to form a Refugee Olympic Team for the Tokyo Olympics, which was postponed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
There are at least 79.5 million people who have fled their homes, including about 26 million refugees, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
The Tokyo Olympics are expected to feature about 11,000 athletes from around the world competing in 33 sports consisting of 339 events.