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Lighting a torch of hope for refugees through the Refugee Olympic Team

According to the UN Refugee Agency(UNHCR), there are at least 79.5 million people around the world that have been forced to flee their homes, living in harsh conditions without access to basic rights. Refugee issues became a crisis around 2015. Concerned with the matter, IOC President Thomas Bach looked into the difficulties and challenges that refugees were facing.

IOC President Bach sought to promote peace through sport under the Olympic flame. At the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in October 2015, he announced the creation of the Refugee Olympic Team, the first of its kind, to take part in the Olympic Games Rio 2016. A few months on from the announcement, 10 athletes, who originally hailed from Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, were competing alongside 11,000 fellow athletes in Brazil, sending a message of hope and inclusion to millions of refugees around the world and inspiring the world with the strength of their human spirit.

The Refugee Olympic Team demonstrates the IOC's commitment to stand with refugees who had to flee their homes due to violence, famine or for simply being different. This unique project not only gave refugees a chance to compete in the Olympics, but also showed the world that harmony in diversity can be achieved through sport.

The Refugee Olympic Team became a symbol of hope for worldwide refugees and it served as a flare for raising global awareness of refugee issues. It was indeed a signal that enlightened us to see refugees as members and companions in the global community that we leave in, as well as important human resources that could improve our society.

In October 2018, the IOC decided that there would be a Refugee Olympic Team for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and President Bach announced on June 20, World Refugee Day, the 37 Refugee Athlete Scholarship-Holders who are aiming to be part of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team in Tokyo 2020 (Following the postponement of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, announcement of the Tokyo 2020 Refugee Olympic Team members will be made in 2021).

Promoting respect for refugee rights through the Olympic Refuge Foundation

In September 2017, the IOC launched the Olympic Refuge Foundation to support the protection, development and empowerment of children and youth in vulnerable situations through sport. This initiative emerged from its strong cooperative partnership with the UN Refugee Agency(UNHCR) in which IOC President Thomas Bach played a vital role.

The Olympic Refuge Foundation supports projects across the world on two levels. One deals with creating safe, basic and accessible sports facilities in areas where there are refugees, a displaced migrant population or internally displaced people, where all children and young people can play sport and take advantage of sport's multiple benefits. The other deals with developing sport activities that can be successfully implemented within these safe environments.

The IOC not only trains refugee athletes to qualify for the Olympics, but also helps them, through the Refugee Athlete Support Programme within the Olympic Solidarity, in continuing their sporting career after the Olympics so that they may build a future for themselves.

The aim of the Olympic Refuge Foundation is for 1 million forcibly displaced young people to have access to safe sport by 2024. The IOC furthers its commitment to using sport to help refugees across the globe by working closely with the UN, NGOs and other international organizations, offering ongoing support to refugees and displaced people by creating accessible sports facilities in areas where they reside so that all children and young people may play sports and enjoy its multiple benefits.

IOC President Bach has continuously supported refugees through the creation of the Refugee Olympic Team and the Olympic Refuge Foundation. He contributed to promoting the human rights of refugees by raising global awareness of refugee issues and renewing the world's perspective on refugees.

Promoting harmony and friendship among states through vitalization of sports in developing countries

IOC President Thomas Bach has long believed in the vision of achieving peace through sport. In 11 May 2010, while working as IOC Vice-President, Bach successfully led and inaugurated the 「Olympic Youth Development Center」 in Lusaka, Zambia. This 15.6 million dollar multi-sport complex also served as a center for promoting culture, education and social development programs, accommodating over 10,000 children and youths yearly. The facility contributed to social change and human development, and a Zambian athlete trained and educated from this center won the gold medal in the 100-meter dash at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games.

As IOC President, Thomas Bach successfully inaugurated the 「Sport for Hope Centre」 in Haiti, in July 2014. The Center, built at a cost of USD 18.7 million, was a joint initiative between the IOC, its key stakeholders and the Haitian government carried forward to bring hope to young Haitians who had suffered from the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Since its opening, the Center has hosted numerous sports camps for children and young athletes, as well as educational workshops, technical seminars for coaches and dedicated workshops for sports journalists. It brought hope and the courage to stand again the people and the youth of Haiti who were devastated by the natural disaster.

IOC President Bach also led the internal reforms of the IOC through the 「Olympic Agenda 2020」. He shifted the Olympic Candidature Process to make it more transparent and greatly reduced the costs for bidding, thereby promoting the active participation of developing countries in terms of hosting and other related rights. Through such changes in process, the Olympic Games seized to be an event hosted by rich and powerful nations, opening a way for alienated nations and regions to host them just the same. This road map contributed to peace and cooperation among states, as it motivated the global community to put aside the discord and division stemming from the wealth gap and seek harmony and cooperation in the true sense of the word.

Contributing to peace through sport by promoting 「Olympic Truce」

IOC President Thomas Bach played a crucial role in the adoption of the Olympic Truce Resolution at the UN General Assembly in 13 November 2017, which took place 3 months prior to the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics. The resolution called for the Olympic Truce to be respected from seven days before the start of the Olympic Games in February 2018 until seven days after the Paralympic Games, and to use this opportunity to harness sport to foster and encourage concrete action that promotes dialogue and reconciliation during the Games and beyond, with the aim of bringing the world together in peaceful competition, providing hope for a better future.

Although resolutions supporting the Olympic Truce has been adopted and implemented before, the one adopted prior to the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics held much significance in that it was adopted following the ballistic missile and nuclear tests conducted by DPRK amid military tensions in the Korean Peninsula. IOC President Bach played a crucial role in its successful adoption.

Contributing to the successful celebration of PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics

Several nations, including France, have expressed the possibility of their absence from the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics due to security risks rising from DPRK's ballistic missile and nuclear tests in 2017 that provoked military tension with the United States.

During the IOC Session held in Peru in September 2017, Bach stated that the Olympic Games must be beyond all the political tensions and should be seen as a stage for dialogue, adding that the Olympic Games are a symbol of hope and for peace. He also expressed that the IOC encouraged the participation of DPRK, saying that the IOC could assist with the accreditation its delegation. President Bach contributed to the hosting of a peaceful Winter Olympics in the Korean Peninsula by extending special consideration to DPRK, which led up to the participation of its delegation.

He also quelled the unrest of nations that were reluctant to participate by reassuring safety and security during the Olympics. In doing so, he contributed to not only the successful celebration of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics, but to the promotion of peace and harmony in the global community.

IOC President Bach chaired the four-party talks held at Lausanne, Switzerland on 20 January 2018, where the IOC, PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games(POCOG), and the National Olympic Committee(NOC) delegations from both Koreas sat down to decide on the participation of athletes from the NOC of DPRK at the 2018 Winter Olympics. The 「Olympic Korean Peninsula Declaration」 was drawn at this meeting, in which the IOC took exceptional decisions to ensure the participation of athletes from the NOC of DPRK at the Winter Olympics. In successfully leading this meeting, Bach contributed to the peaceful and productive celebration of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics, which would serve as the foundation for peace in the Korean Peninsula.

The 1988 Summer Seoul Olympics, at which delegations from 160 nations participated, played a part in easing tensions between the Eastern Bloc and the Western Bloc during the Cold War. However, DPRK's absence from it remained as a sad recollection that should not be repeated. With this in mind, Bach strove to encourage DPRK's participation at the Olympic Games that were being held in the peninsula, once again, after 30 years. He did so with a firm conviction and his success made the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics far more commemorative. In doing so, Bach contributed to the successful hosting and celebration of the Olympic Games, upholding the ideals of peace and hope that the Olympic spirit carry, proving himself to be an 'Olympic Champion' in deed.

Due to the IOC's efforts, PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics marked the highest participation of states (92 nations) in the history of Winter Olympics, as well as evaluated to be the best.

Contributing to peace through sport in the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia

IOC President Thomas Bach played a key role in drawing the 「Olympic Korean Peninsula Declaration」 at the IOC's four-party talks at Lausanne, Switzerland on January 2018. In this declaration, the IOC decided to allow the NOCs of both Koreas to form a unified team in sport, a Unified Women's Ice Hockey Team, for the first time in their Olympic history.

Under firm belief that DPRK should participate at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics, Bach allocated additional quota places for DPRK's delegation, chaired the talks between the Ministers of Sport of both Koreas and supported the adoption of the UN resolution for Olympic Truce. His efforts allowed DPRK to participate in the Olympics with the highest number of athletes in DPRK's Olympic history and gave way to a peaceful competition where the two Koreas stood united as one team in Women's Ice Hockey. These achievements laid the foundation for South-North Korea talks and U.S.-North Korea talks.

IOC President Thomas Bach devoted himself to encouraging DPRK to participate at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics with concerns for peace in the Korean Peninsula. Hailing from Germany, Bach understood the pain of unnatural division and strove hard to achieve peace and harmony in the Korean Peninsula through Olympic sports.

Bach played a vital role in the organizing of PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics, Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, drawing cooperation and exchange among hosting countries in Northeast Asia such as South Korea, China and Japan. This served to strengthen peace and harmony in Northeast Asia and among the three hosting nations.

A persevering Olympic champion and IOC President

Thomas Bach is a German lawyer, sports administrator and a former Olympic fencer who won a gold medal in fencing (team foil) at the 1976 Summer Olympics held in Montreal, as well as at the 1977 World Championship. Bach majored in law and politics at the University of W?rzburg and earned a doctor of law (Dr. iur. utr.) degree in 1983 from the same. He worked as a lawyer and became a member of the IOC in 1991, where he began his career as an executive sports administrator. He was elected as a member of the IOC Executive Board and served as an IOC Vice-President until elected as IOC President at the 125th IOC Session in Buenos Aires on 10 September 2013. He is the first IOC President with a gold medal, a professional sportsman and lawyer, who serves as an example and inspiration to all younger athletes.