I've been cracking jokes about the sillier side of the Olympics, both here and on Facebook, and of course I love to do that, but even I have to acknowledge any effort by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to live up to the ideal of peace through sport. Reacting to the refugee crisis caused by interminable wars in the Middle East and Africa, IOC President Thomas Bach orchestrated the creation of a Refugee Olympic Team, comprised of ten refugee athletes, to compete in Rio under the Olympic flag in order to call more attention to the global refugee crisis and also recognize refugees' worth.
The most visible face of the refugee team is swimmer Yusra Mardini (below), a Syrian Christian who fled the civil war in her homeland. Her story is quite inspiring; she and was able to arrange to be smuggled with her sister Sarah, also a swimmer, on an overcrowded boat from Turkey to Greece. Out in the Aegean Sea, the boat's motor died; Yusra and her sister pushed the boat with two other people through the water for three hours until they reached the Greek island of Lesbos. From there the Mardini sisters made it to Germany (where their parents also settled), and Yusra pursued her Olympic dream by training in Berlin.
She made the Refugee Olympic team, and at Rio she swam the butterfly and freestyle races, both one hundred meters, and though she never had a chance of advancing out of the qualifiers, well . . . I know it sounds corny, but by competing, she'd already won. :-)
Yusra Mardini, eighteen years of age at this writing, says she plans to continue her swimming career. I hope she gets a medal one day, be it for Syria, Germany, or even another refugee team.