The 2016 Olympic games came to a close Sunday evening, ending 16 days of fierce, heartwarming and inspirational competition. One last time, Maracanã Stadium was filled with athletes from around the world, united in competition and friendship. The importance of the Olympic games were highlighted by the IOC President's refugee speech at the closing ceremony, a touching tribute to those who competed without a country's flag flying over them.
In his final remarks closing the 2016 Olympic Games, Thomas Bac, who was elected president of the IOC in September of 2013, addressed the refugee athletes, telling them and the entire world,
Thank you to the refugee athletes. You are a symbol of hope for millions of refugees in the world. We will continue to be at your side after these Olympic games. You arrived in Brazil as guests. Today, we depart as your friends. You will have a place in our hearts, forever.
The refugee athletes were a pivotal part of this year's Olympic games, as inspirational and at times heartbreaking stories dominated news headlines and won over the hearts of viewers around the world. Those stories included that of Yusra Mardini, the refugee team swimmer, who swam for three and a half hours, pushing a boat of 20 refugees, until it reached the Greek island of Lesbos. Yes, the refugee team did, in deed, capture our hearts, shown by the reactions to the IOC president's speech and his mention of the refugee team:
Perhaps what makes this particular part of the IOC president's closing ceremony speech all the more important, is the current picture of a young Syrian boy, circulating the internet after his home was bombed. What is now being described as an "iconic photo" of 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh sitting in an ambulance, bloodied and in shock, after his home was bombed in the ravaged city of Aleppo in Syria, has brought the Syrian war back to the forefront of Western minds. So many of the refugees, including Mardini, are Syrian, bridging the gap between those that were able to flee their country and those, like Daqneesh and his family, who can't.
It shouldn't take a heartbreaking picture of a child to remind us that Syria is still at war and people are still dying. It shouldn't take a group of brave, incredible refugee athletes to remind us that there is more we can, and should, do to help those people, as citizens of the world. Still, we do have those pictures and we do have those athletes so, now, all we can do is work to make the IOC president's words will continue to ring true. "We will continue to be at your side after these Olympic games."