Ashgabat, Turkmenistan: The Olympic Council of Asia’s (OCA) 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games are a “first” in several aspects.
It is the first time the event is being held in Central Asia, athletes from Oceania are competing alongside Asian athletes, and the first time an OCA event has witnessed an African Refugee Team.
Following in the footsteps of the International Olympic Committee’s historic decision to have an Olympic Refugee Team at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, the OCA and government of Turkmenistan have reached out to refugees and welcomed them to the multi-sport festival as one of 65 teams.
“We are so happy and proud to be here in Ashgabat and would like to thank everyone involved for this opportunity,” said long-distance running legend Tegla Loroupe, who is also the Ambassador and Founder of the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation. “I’m from a conflict area. I’m aware of the difficulties. What is very important is the pride of the person. The athletes can become a role model for their country.”
The five refugee athletes competing here are from South Sudan.
They live and train in Kenya under the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation and supported by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. They were selected for Ashgabat 2017 after trials at their Kenya base.
Loroupe, who also led the 10-strong Olympic Refugee Team in Rio, thanked the government of Turkmenistan, the organising committee and the Olympic Council of Asia for inviting the team to Ashgabat.