Refugee Team demonstrates Olympic spirit, sends message of hope

Refugee Olympic Team members will compete across 12 sports during the Paris Olympic Games. Photo: Courtesy of International Olympic Committee

Refugee Olympic Team members will compete across 12 sports during the Paris Olympic Games. Photo: Courtesy of International Olympic Committee

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has unveiled its largest Refugee Olympic Team to date for the Paris Olympic Games and a new emblem for the team.

A total of 36 athletes from 11 different countries and regions will compete across 12 sports including swimming, badminton and breaking during the Paris Games from July 26 to August 11, marking the third time for the Refugee Team to take part in the Olympic Games since Rio 2016. 

The announcement was made by IOC president Thomas Bach during a live-streamed ceremony from Olympic House in Lausanne, Switzerland on May 2.

“With your participation in the Olympic Games, you will demonstrate the human potential for resilience and excellence. This will send a message of hope to the more than 100 million displaced people around the world. At the same time, you will make billions of people around the world aware of the magnitude of the refugee crisis,” said Bach.

The establishment of a Refugee Team is more than an enrichment to the Olympic community. It is the best interpretation of the Olympic spirit of peace, mutual respect and understanding by promoting inclusiveness, unity, perseverance and fair play and it serves as a powerful reminder of the transformative power of sport.

The Olympic Games aim to bring together athletes from all over the world to compete regardless of nationality, ethnicity, or background. 

In 2024, for the first time in the Olympic history, the Refugee Team will compete under its own emblem, instead of the Olympic flag with its signature five interlocked rings. Bringing a unique identity to the team, the design of a circle of arrows around a red heart represents the team members coming from different corners of the world and sharing their unique journeys.

The Refugee Olympic Team symbolizes unity and solidarity among nations and athletes. It sends the powerful message that despite the challenges and adversities faced by refugees, they can come together as a team and compete alongside athletes from around the world.

Additionally, the participation of refugee athletes in the Olympic Games promotes a message of peace and understanding. It highlights the human cost of conflict and displacement while at the same time emphasizing the importance of global cooperation and support for refugees.

In promoting peace, the team’s purpose positions itself on the same level as the Olympic Truce, an ancient Greek tradition which required the cessation of all hostilities to secure safe passage for athletes during the ancient Olympic Games.

According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there were an estimated 114 million people forcibly displaced worldwide as of September of 2023.

Supporting refugees and displaced populations remains a key priority for the IOC, and is part of Olympic Agenda. The Olympic Refuge Foundation (ORF) was established in 2017 to build on this commitment.

Representing the people affected by war and poverty, refugee athletes from countries such as Iran, Afghanistan and Syria will take this opportunity to raise global awareness of the refugee crisis and serve as role models to inspire individuals facing adversities worldwide and convey to the world a call for unity and peace. 

This year, the team will be led by Chef de Mission Masomah Ali Zada, who competed for the Refugee Team at Tokyo 2020 in road cycling. In an interview, Zada commented: “With all the challenges that you have faced, you now have a chance to inspire a new generation, represent something bigger than yourselves and show the world what refugees are capable of,”

The presence of the Refugee Team at the Olympic Games is a perfect example of how sports are able to promote global peace and the harmonious coexistence of mankind, said a Chinese netizen on X-like Sina Weibo. 

The Olympic spirit represents the universal values of excellence, friendship, respect, sportsmanship, and inspiration that unite athletes and people around the world in the pursuit of athletic achievement and human excellence.

The Refugee Olympic Team will definitely leave a lasting legacy beyond the Games and it is hoped that such initiative will lead to increased support and opportunities for refugee athletes at all levels of sport, encouraging participation, integration, and social inclusion in communities worldwide.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. [email protected]

Growing international events call for more sports presenters

Li Zichao (right) conducts an on-court interview with US tennis player Sofia Kenin during the WTA Guangzhou Open in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province. Photo: Courtesy of Li Zichao

Li Zichao (right) conducts an on-court interview with US tennis player Sofia Kenin during the WTA Guangzhou Open in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province. Photo: Courtesy of Li Zichao

As a major sports powerhouse, China has witnessed a growing number of international sporting events across the country in recent years, attracting more and more foreign athletes and sports enthusiasts to the country.

Outside of the dazzling athletes and their record-breaking performances is a world that exists alongside the world of athletic performance but is often overlooked – sports presenting. 

Beyond merely announcing names and scores, a sports presenter shoulders the responsibility of managing the ambiance within the arena, transforming mere spectators into fervent supporters and elevating the overall sporting experience. 

When sports presenting is involved, the atmosphere becomes electric and dynamic. Be it the thrilling anticipation before the start of an event, the captivating analysis during the event, or the jubilant celebrations after the event, good sports presenting adds layers of excitement and engagement to the experience. 

As the industry has emerged from obscurity, it has been propelled into the limelight by individuals like Li Zichao, whose life journey illustrates the multifaceted nature of this evolving profession.

Li was among the crew of sports presenters at the Hangzhou Asian Games held in 2023, who often made headlines on social media for the engaging content they provided to audiences. But his career in sports started in a sport far removed from indoor competitions like table tennis. 

Golf challenge 

Having majored in grassland science at the Beijing Forestry University, Li had an early connection to golf, a sport in which lawns and greens are essential. 

“I started my career as a golf commentator in 2008, and since then, I have developed broadcasting skills and knowledge in the sport,” Li told the Global Times. 

Sports presenters often need to research and compile information about upcoming games, teams, players and relevant statistics as Li underscored. Strong research skills are important for providing accurate and insightful commentary.

“A deep understanding and passion for sports are essential. You should be knowledgeable about various sports, teams, players and events. This includes understanding the rules of different sports and being able to analyze and commentate on games effectively,” Li said. 

Fans cheer for the Chinese national table tennis team during the Asian Games in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province in September 2023. Photo: VCG

Fans cheer for the Chinese national table tennis team during the Asian Games in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province in September 2023. Photo: VCG

Different from many other sports with a double-digit number of athletes, in golf, Li often has to prepare the background information of 144 athletes, which calls for a huge volume of home work on every athlete. 

“The presentation isn’t just about relaying information; it’s about weaving together stories, stats, and emotions to transport viewers into the game,” Li noted.

Golf is a game that requires a lot of focus and concentration. Any noise or distraction can disrupt a player’s mental state and affect their performance, thus giving presenters very limited time to conduct their jobs.

“Unlike more fast-paced sports like soccer, basketball, or any other indoor sports, the action in golf can be subtle and spread out across the outdoor course,” said Li, who is now preparing his presentation content for the Volvo China Open golf event from May 2 to 5 in Shenzhen, South China’s Guangdong Province. 

“Presenters must be mindful of the timing to avoid disrupting players or spectators while still providing engaging commentary and analyses.”

Engaging with audiences

Similar to Li’s story, Dou Yujia also excels in sports presentation. 

After years of news coverage on the development of Chinese athletics, Dou now takes on sports presenting at large events, like the World Athletic Diamond League race in Xiamen, East China’s Fujian Province. 

In athletics, sports presentation often involves audio-visual effects, including music, videos, commentary, and lighting, thus making it easier to engage with audiences in the stadium. 

“Chinese athletics boasts impressive competitive achievements and China has a plethora of world-class athletes,” Dou said. 

“If we can develop a sporting culture through sports presenting that audiences could enjoy, especially with the presence of many children nowadays, they can enjoy top-notch athletics culture from a young age and learn about spectator etiquette, which bodes well for the future development of Chinese athletics.”

Li also seeks to inspire and mentor the next generation of sports presenters, nurturing a cadre of young enthusiasts eager to explore the intricacies of this burgeoning field.

Yet, the journey from novice to seasoned sports presenter is fraught with challenges and demands diverse skill sets. 

It requires not only a profound knowledge of sports but also an innate ability to captivate audiences and infuse each moment with excitement and anticipation. 

“Proficiency in both Chinese and English is essential, enabling seamless communication with a global audience as the audiences are often exclusively from China,” Li said. 

Sports presenters also serve as ambassadors of Chinese culture, incorporating elements of tradition to captivate foreign participants and spectators alike.

To better achieve that goal, Li opts to consult with local experts on how to share particular elements with an international audience.

“For many foreign athletes and spectators, watching a sporting event is also a chance to learn the local culture, thus making our job a perfect channel to disseminate the rich culture of China,” Li said.

With the forthcoming 2025 Asian Winter Games set to unfold in his hometown of Harbin, Northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province, Li, who was included as an ice hockey presenter for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, also aspires to contribute his expertise to the local event. 

“Witnessing spectators express their satisfaction with the sports presentation I’ve given truly validates the significance of my work,” Li said. “I just hope to have more opportunities to offer the audience quality content through sports presenting.”

Ex-captain Zhu’s return boosts Chinese women’s volleyball team’s Paris hopes

China's Zhu Ting (right) spikes during the match against Turkey at the Tokyo Olympics on July 25. Photo: Cui Meng/Global Times

China’s Zhu Ting (right) spikes during the match against Turkey at the Tokyo Olympics on July 25, 2021. Photo: Cui Meng/Global Times

Chinese volleyball looks like it will get a shot in the arm as former captain of the national women’s team Zhu Ting announced a comeback via her personal social media account on Monday night. 

While playing for Pallavolo Scandicci in the Italian league, the 29-year-old volleyball icon said on her X-like Sina Weibo account that she will return to the national team during the 2024 Volleyball Women’s Nations League that is scheduled to begin in May.

The most valuable player during China’s run to Olympic gold at the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016 said that “the sole objective of my return is to help the national team secure qualification for the Paris Olympics.”

To achieve this end and avoid any distractions and misunderstandings, Zhu has shunned all commercial activities.

“I will not participate in any commercial activities or endorsements while with the national team. I will focus on recovering my physical fitness as quickly as possible to catch up with the national team. I will devote myself wholeheartedly to training and matches, working together with the team to secure qualification for the Paris Games,” Zhu noted. 

As one of the most recognizable faces in Chinese sports, Zhu is to the national women’s volleyball team what Yao Ming was to the national basketball team.

Her timely return to the national team undoubtedly provides a significant morale boost to the squad, given her experience, talent, and leadership qualities. 

Zhu’s presence on the court not only elevates the team’s performance but also serves as an inspiration to her teammates and fans alike.

With the other addition of Zhang Changning, another Rio Olympic champion who returned in February, the national team’s prospects for securing a place in the Paris Games have significantly improved. 

The team, comprising both promising young talents and experienced veterans, has reignited hopes for a successful campaign in Paris.

Qualifying for the Olympic Games is of great significance for any national team. However, for the women’s volleyball team, which holds a special place in Chinese sports history, missing the Olympic Games is hard to swallow for fans. 

Since their groundbreaking victory at the 1981 World Cup, the volleyball team has been a source of immense national pride for China. 

Their achievements on the international stage, including three Olympic gold medals and multiple world championship titles, have elevated the country’s profile. Their dedication, teamwork, and perseverance have inspired generations of athletes to pursue excellence in sports. 

Currently engaged in close-door training under head coach Cai Bin, the team has to fight for a high world ranking at the coming Volleyball Nations League to secure a spot for the Paris Olympics.

Regarded as one of the best volleyball players in the world, Zhu’s experience and skill set make her an invaluable asset to the team, particularly in high-stakes matches where her leadership and composure can make a difference.

In her announcement, she revealed that she had once lost interest in volleyball and all but retired due to injury and rumors.

“From the end of 2023 to this year’s Spring Festival, I suffered serious fatigue and a slump in form to the point where I couldn’t even handle routine matches. The various rumors and deliberate attacks against me on the internet since the Tokyo Games, weighed on me and even affected my family. I once lost interest in volleyball, so I had submitted a retirement application,” Zhu said on Sina Weibo. 

She attributed her comeback to former national team coach Lang Ping, who repeatedly helped her analyze her physical and technical problems and urged her to strengthen physical training. Lang masterminded the team to the gold medal at the 2016 Rio Games, becoming the first person in volleyball history to have won Olympic gold both as a player and as a coach.

Having recovered from a wrist injury, Zhu has been regaining her form and restoring confidence. Her comeback and her role in helping China qualify for the Paris Olympic Games will highlight her enduring legacy in the world of volleyball. 

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. [email protected]