When it comes to the Olympics, it's usually all about country pride. Most competing athletes compete with their home country, but that's not the case for all athletes. Every year there are Independent Olympic Athletes who have no country affiliation, but this year there's also another group of people not affiliated with a specific country: refugees. Although it may seem like the two groups are the same, there's actually a big difference between the Olympic Refugee Team and the Independent Olympic Athletes.
In the past there have often been Independent Olympic Athletes competing in the Olympics. According to The Conversation, there are various reasons why an athlete may compete independently. For starters, their country, for whatever reason, could have been suspended from the International Olympic Committee. This could be due to anything from political transition in the country to international sanctions. It's also possible their nation just isn't internationally recognized or the athlete themselves are stateless. Whatever the case may be, if an athlete cannot compete with their country they do have the opportunity to participate as an Independent Olympic Athlete. This year Kuwaiti athletes will be competing as independent due to the suspension of the Kuwait Olympic Committee last year, according to the official Olympic site. In total there are nine athletes competing as Independent Olympic Athletes, and they'll be competing in fencing, shooting, and swimming.
On the other side in the Refugee Olympic Team. Due to the ongoing refugee crisis the International Olympic Committee decided to put together a team that would allow refugees to compete in the Olympics this year, according to CBS News. A total of 10 athletes from four different countries make up the team. The countries they represent include South Sudan, Syria, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. They will be competing in a variety of events including track and field races, the marathon, judo, and swimming. For both Team Refugee and the Independent Olympians, rather than wave the flags of their own country, they waved the flag of the Olympics.
Although these athletes aren't being backed by a specific country they'll be just as important to watch as the other athletes. Both Team Refugee and the Independent Olympic Athletes had to work even harder to get to the Olympics this year and they'll didn't want to make sure their hard work pays off.