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Princess of Asturias Awards 05/25/2022

The Olympic Refuge Foundation and the IOC Refugee Olympic Team, Princess of Asturias Award for Sports

The Olympic Refuge Foundation and the IOC Refugee Olympic Team have been bestowed with the 2022 Princess of Asturias Award for Sports, as announced today by the Jury responsible for conferring said Award


The Jury for the Award –convened by the Princess of Asturias Foundation– was chaired by Abel Antón Rodrigo and composed of Alejandro Blanco Bravo, Vicente del Bosque González, Miguel Carballeda Piñeiro, María Paz Corominas Guerin, Joaquín Folch-Rusiñol Corachán, Juan Ignacio Gallardo Tomé, Patricia García Rodríguez, Vicente Jiménez Navas, Santiago Nolla Zayas, Edurne Pasabán Lizarribar, Paloma del Río Cañadas, Alberto Suárez Laso and Theresa Zabell Lucas (as acting secretary).

This candidature was put forward by Juan Antonio Samaranch Salisachs, Vice- President of the International Olympic Committee. Among others, it was seconded by Pau Gasol, 2015 Princess of Asturias Laureate for Sports, and Roxana Maracineanu, former Delegate Minister attached to the French Minister of National Education, Youth and Sports.

In the words of IOC President Thomas Bach, the Olympic Refuge Foundation and the IOC Refugee Olympic Team, created in 2017 and 2015, respectively, by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) –1991 Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation–, aim to serve as “a symbol of hope for all the world’s refugees”, to raise awareness regarding one of the most important crises facing the international community, and to use sport as a channel for humanitarian aid, cooperation and development of people affected by conflicts at an international level.

The Olympic Refuge Foundation was created by the IOC, in collaboration with UNHCR, in 2017, with the commitment to support the protection and sporting and personal development of displaced athletes, over and above Olympic events. The Foundation works with international organizations, private sector companies, non- governmental organizations and other foundations to establish and promote cooperative programmes through sport. Protecting young people from violence and social exclusion, promoting access to education, health (with special attention to mental health in its latest initiatives) and sports practice are, among other goals, the main lines of the work strategy of the twelve programmes that the Foundation has launched since its creation, from which some two hundred thousand young people have already benefited. These projects have been carried out in eight countries: Colombia, Jordan, Kenya, Mexico, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Turkey and Uganda. With the goal of reaching a million young beneficiaries by 2024, it continues to develop programmes. This year (2022), it has launched the “Terrains d’Avenir” project together with the French Ministry of Sports to help young refugees in France and is preparing others in countries such as Spain and the Netherlands. The Foundation also promotes the creation of networks and collaboration agreements that help implement its vision, such as the Sport for Refugees Coalition, in which more than eighty members participate, and the Olympic Refuge Foundation Think Tank, made up of international experts from the academic world, the healthcare sector, members of non-governmental organizations and refugees who analyse and fine tune the work of the Foundation and the role of sport as a tool for humanitarian aid. Thomas Bach is Chairman of the Foundation’s Board of Directors and Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, is its Vice Chairman. The Foundation is also responsible for the Refugee Olympic Team.

The IOC Refugee Olympic Team (officially known by its French acronym, EOR) is a delegation that participates in the Olympic Games made up of athletes who are refugees by reason of any conflict worldwide. It was created by the IOC in 2015, when this organization asked the different national committees to identify, in collaboration with UNHCR, refugee athletes whose sporting ability would potentially allow them to qualify for the Games, in order to offer them the possibility of doing so through the funding provided by Olympic Solidarity scholarships, an IOC aid project for athletes. The team has the same consideration as any other that participates in the sporting event. The EOR participated for the first time in the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games. Of the forty-three pre- selected candidates, a list of ten athletes was finally chosen to form the team. These athletes came from Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria and South Sudan, and participated in athletics, judo and swimming. Judoka Popole Misenga, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was their flag bearer at the opening ceremony. The flag that represents the EOR is the Olympic flag. The list of team members for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic) was approved on 8th June 2021. The team was made up of twenty-nine athletes from thirteen national committees (chosen from an initial short-list of fifty-five), who competed in twelve disciplines. Yusra Mardini (Syrian swimmer) and Tachlowini Gabriyesos (Eritrean marathon runner) were the flag bearers at the opening ceremony and Iranian taekwondo athlete Kimia Alizadeh won the bronze medal in her discipline.

As stated in the Statutes of the Foundation, the Princess of Asturias Awards are aimed at rewarding “the scientific, technical, cultural, social and humanitarian work carried out at an international level by individuals, institutions or groups of individuals or institutions”. In keeping with these principles, the Princess of Asturias Award for Sports is to be granted to “careers which, via the promotion, fostering and advancement of sport and sense of solidarity and commitment, have become an example of the benefits that practising sports can bring to people.”

This year, a total of 24 candidatures comprising 10 different nationalities were put forward for the Sports Award.

This is the fourth of the eight Princess of Asturias Awards to be bestowed in what is now their forty-second year. Previously, the Princess of Asturias Award for the Arts was jointly granted to flamenco singer Carmen Linares and flamenco dancer and choreographer María Pagés; the Award for Communication and Humanities went to journalist Adam Michnik, while the Award for Social Sciences was conferred on Mexican archaeologist Eduardo Matos Moctezuma. The corresponding Awards for Literature, International Cooperation, Technical and Scientific Research, and Concord shall be announced in the coming weeks (in the preceding order).

As is customary, the presentation of the Princess of Asturias Awards will take place in October in a solemn ceremony presided over by TM The King and Queen of Spain, accompanied by TRH Leonor, The Princess of Asturias, and Infanta Sofía.

Each Princess of Asturias Award comprises a Joan Miró sculpture representing and symbolizing the Award, a diploma, an insignia and a cash prize of fifty thousand euros.

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