Published on 22 Jun 2024

Refugee Olympic Team chef de mission highlights role of sport for displaced people in new communities


 Masomah Ali Zada, chef de mission of the Refugee Olympic Team at the Paris 2024 Games – which includes two shooting sport athletes - has highlighted sport’s important role in supporting the integration of refugees and displaced people in their new communities.

Speaking on World Refugee Day (June 20) from a sports centre close to the Olympic Village in Paris, where she was attending a handball session of the Terrains d’Avenir programme, Ali Zada told

“Playing handball with these women once again reminded me of the impact sport can have when you arrive in a new country as a refugee.

“It allows you to integrate into a new community; it gives you hope. Most importantly, it’s a tool for you to navigate some of the challenges of being a refugee - it’s a space where you can forget and play.

“I met a woman from Sri Lanka called Cindy, which really touched me. She is 66 years old and comes to play handball with these women every week.

“It has been an incredible way for her to integrate, talk French, socialise and do sports. I could see how much it meant to her in her eyes; she would stay even after the session and watch others.

“After 66 years, it was her connection with this new society she came into. For me that's what sport can do for the refugee community.”

The International Olympic Committee (IOC)  Refugee team consists of 23 men and 13 women from countries of origin on three continents - Africa, the Americas, and Asia - competing in 12 different sports.

Among the 36 members announced in May by IOC President Thomas Bach were shooting sport’s Eritrea-born Tokyo 2020 Olympian Luna Solomon, who will compete again in the 10m air rifle women event, and Edilio Francisco Centeno Nieves, originally from Venezuela and now living in Mexico, who will compete in the 10m air pistol men.

With the Olympics due to open on July 26, the Olympic Refuge Foundation (ORF) is working through its Terrains d’Avenir programme to remove barriers to accessing sport and sporting spaces in the French capital.

The women-only handball session is one of more than 30 free, open-to-all weekly sport sessions delivered through the ORF’s Terrains d’Avenir programme.

This year World Refugee Day focused on solidarity and solutions for displaced people.