Typically, in order to compete at the Olympic Games, you need to be affiliated with a specific country. Beginning in 2016, though, the Games also introduced a team made up entirely of refugees who had been forced out of the countries they were from for one reason or another. These refugees lived in a wide variety of countries around the world, but were not yet citizens of those nations.
What does EOR mean at the Olympics?
The Refugee Olympic Team is also known as the EOR, and it comes from the French version of the name: équipe olympique des réfugiés. The idea of the EOR was first introduced during the Rio Olympics, and it apparently worked well enough that they've included the team in 2021 as well. This year's team will be composed of 29 athletes representing 12 different sports. The athletes are from 11 countries and have been living and training in 13 nations.
The sports that will be represented by the EOR include athletics, badminton, boxing, canoeing, cycling, judo, karate, taekwondo, sport of shooting, swimming, weightlifting, and wrestling. In the opening ceremony on July 23, the EOR team will carry the Olympic flag and immediately following the Greek team, who traditionally open the games.
Throughout the games, the Olympic flag will be raised to represent the team, including during any possible medal ceremonies. The refugee team will join teams from 206 other nations in participating in the Games, and will be staying in the Olympic Village along with the rest of the athletes competing. The athletes were able to train for competition thanks in part to scholarships provided by the International Olympic Committee through their Olympic Solidarity initiative.
The Tokyo Olympics are already mired in controversy.
Even before they've officially begun, the 2021 Olympic Games have already faced calls for cancellation. The Games are beginning as athletes from around the world continue to test positive for COVID-19 as they land in Tokyo, and as concerns about the Delta variant of the virus increases around the world.
The Games have taken a number of precautions in order to make sure the events are as safe as possible, including the total exclusion of live in-person audiences for all events. Even so, it's impossible to guarantee the safety of all of the thousands of athletes who are descending on Tokyo in preparation for the competition.
The refugee team is one of many positive stories from these Games that may be overshadowed by the larger narrative around this year's Olympics. Plenty of American athletes are poised to perform incredibly well, but there are likely to be plenty of people around the globe who wonder whether the Olympics should be happening at all.
While canceling the Games remains a live possibility, it seems that they're planning to go ahead as scheduled. There's likely to be plenty of incredible competition over the two weeks while the Games take place, but it remains to be seen whether holding the Games at all was a good idea.