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Olympics chief says refugee athletes can compete in Rio

The president of the International Olympic Committee says highly qualified athletes who are refugees can compete in the Olympic Games. UN member states are urged to help the IOC identify talented refugee athletes.

Thomas Bach, the president of the IOC, said that athletes who are refugees will be allowed to compete for the first time in the Olympic Games. The IOC chief made the announcement to the UN General Assembly, which adopted a resolution urging all countries to stop fighting and observe a truce during the 2016 Summer Olympics and Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.

"The Olympic Games are the time when the values of tolerance, solidarity and peace are brought to life," said Bach in a statement. "This is the time when the international community comes together for peaceful competition."

"In the Olympic Village, we see tolerance and solidarity in their purest form. Athletes from all 206 national Olympic committees live together in harmony and without any kind of discrimination."

Until now, Bach said, qualified refugee athletes were not able to participate because they couldn't represent their home country by way of its national Olympic committee.

However, he said the IOC has decided to welcome refugee athletes to the 2016 Olympics, where they will live in the Olympic Village alongside the other 11,000 athletes from 206 national Olympic committees.

"Having no national team to belong to, having no flag to march behind, having no national anthem to be played, these refugee athletes will be welcomed to the Olympic games with the Olympic flag and with the Olympic anthem," he said.

Bach said the IOC had created a $2 million fund "to bring hope through sport to refugees."

The Olympics are set to take place from August 5 to 21, 2016, while the Paralympic Games will be held from September 7 to 18, 2016.

av/gsw (AP, Reuters)

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