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Everybody's Rooting For The Refugee Olympic Team

The team, composed of refugee athletes from around the world, got some of the loudest cheers during the Olympic opening ceremony in Rio.

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The Refugee Olympic Team was met with resounding support as the games opened in Rio de Janeiro on Friday.

The team is composed of 10 athletes from around the world who have been displaced from their home countries.

"You had to flee your homes...now with your human spirit you are making a great contribution to society," the International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach said during live commentary of the parade of nations, as the crowd gathered at the Maracanã Stadium for the opening ceremony stood for a rapturous applause.

"We welcome you as an enrichment of our unity in diversity," he added.

It is the first time an Olympic athletic team has been composed of refugees, an effort by the IOC to shine a light on the plight of refugees all over the world.

During the ceremony, US president Barack Obama tweeted his support for the Refugee Olympic Team. "Tonight, the first-ever #TeamRefugees will also stand before the world and prove that you can succeed no matter where you're from," he wrote.

Filippo Grandi, the United Nations' high commissioner for refugees, praised the IOC for "speaking of diversity, environment, and peace".

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Thanks President Bach @iocmedia & Brazil for inviting #TeamRefugees + speaking of diversity, environment & peace. https://t.co/rsnFMpWe0A

Ahead of the ceremony, the pope wrote to the athletes to offer his support. In the letter, translated from the original Spanish by Vatican Radio, the pontiff said that their "courage and strength find expression through the Olympic Games and serve as a cry for peace and solidarity".

The athletes come from Syria, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The opening ceremony was broadcast in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, which some of the athletes currently call home.

Runner Rose Nathike Lokonyen, 23, has lived at Kakuma since she fled South Sudan at the age of 8.

She told the UN refugee agency UNHCR that she was "very excited" to take part in this year's games.

"This is the first chance for the refugees to participate in the Olympics and to give us hope, for us to encourage the young generations of fellow refugees who are remaining in the camps maybe to continue their talent,” Lokonyen said.

People watching the ceremony also congratulated the Refugee Olympic Team, and the IOC's decision to have them take part in this year's games.

Grateful that the IOC is shining a huge spotlight on the refugee crisis with the Refugee Olympic Team. Countries take notice! #TeamRefugees

I LOVE that there is a refugee Olympic team. Giving people a team to compete for because they can't compete for their country. So inspiring.

I cried when the refugee Olympic team came out. Such a cool moment #OpeningCeremony

Hard not to get a little emotional about seeing the #Refugee #Olympic team. What refugees go through every day is unimaginable #Rio2016

Shortly after the opening ceremony, the official Twitter account for the refugee team thanked people for "all your support tonight", adding a heart emoji and the hashtag, "#hope".

Thank you for all your support tonight ❤️ #Hope

These are the athletes competing in the Refugee Olympic Team:

Rami Anis (M): Country of origin – Syria; host NOC – Belgium; sport – swimming.

Yiech Pur Biel (M): Country of origin – South Sudan; host NOC – Kenya; sport – athletics, 800m.

James Nyang Chiengjiek (M): Country of origin – South Sudan; host NOC – Kenya; sport – athletics, 400m.

Yonas Kinde (M): Country of origin – Ethiopia; host NOC – Luxembourg; sport – athletics, marathon.

Anjelina Nada Lohalith (F): Country of origin – South Sudan; host NOC – Kenya; sport – athletics, 1500m.

Rose Nathike Lokonyen (F): Country of origin – South Sudan; host NOC – Kenya; sport – athletics, 800m.

Paulo Amotun Lokoro (M): Country of origin – South Sudan; host NOC – Kenya; sport – athletics, 1500m.

Yolande Bukasa Mabika (F): Country of origin – Democratic Republic of the Congo; host NOC – Brazil; sport – judo, -70kg.

Yusra Mardini (F): Country of origin – Syria; host NOC – Germany; sport – swimming.

Popole Misenga (M): Country of origin – Democratic Republic of the Congo; host NOC – Brazil; sport – judo, -90kg.


Laura Silver is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Laura Silver at laura.silver@buzzfeed.com.

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