Syrian Refugee Will Carry Olympic Flame through Athens
By Greg Felder
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) announced that Ibrahim Al-Hussein, a 27-year-old Syrian refugee, will carry the Rio 2016 Olympic Torch through the Eleonas refugee and migrant camp in central Athens.
“I am carrying the flame for myself, but also for Syrians, for refugees everywhere, for Greece, for sports, for my swimming and basketball teams,” said Al-Hussein to UNHCR.
Al-Hussein, who now resides in Athens, fled Syria after losing his leg in a bombing in his hometown of Deir ez-Zor, Syria. As a child he was actively involved in sports, playing basketball, swimming, and judo, with dreams of participating in the Olympic Games. Tomorrow that dream will become a reality as he carries the Olympic Torch through Athens and represents the more than 60 million people displaced worldwide.
“It is an honor. Imagine achieving one of your biggest dreams. Imagine that your dream of more than 20 years is becoming a reality,” said Al-Hussein.
He says that he feels at home in Athens and his love for sports has continued on despite all he’s been through. He now plays for a wheelchair basketball team that meets five times per week, and swims the 50-meter freestyle at a swim club for athletes with disabilities. Busy with sports during the day, he works a 10-hour overnight shift at a local café.
The flame was lit on April 21 in Olympia and is now on a seven-day tour of Greece. Al-Hussein will carry it through Eleonas in Athens where over 1,500 refugees temporarily reside. He is a part of an historic Olympic Games that will also feature the first ever all-refugee team. Al-Hussein and Team Refugee Olympic Athletes will help bring attention to the refugee crisis as the world watches the games in Rio this August.