A Syrian refugee who fled by dinghy has spoken of a “dream come true” after receiving a standing ovation at Rio 2016 when setting a personal best in the men’s 100m freestyle.
Rami Anis, 25, has taken a long journey from Aleppo to Brazil, escaping the bombings and kidnappings of his home country and ping-ponging across the Middle East and Europe. At one stage, he rode an inflatable dinghy from Turkey to the Greek island of Samos with 40 others when the motor broke.
Now, after eventually reaching the Belgian town of Ghent and training nine times a week with former Olympic swimmer Carine Verbauwen, Anis has represented the Refugee Team, and his debut was one to remember.
In the heats, Anis finished 56th out of 59 swimmers, but recorded a personal best of 54.25 sec to huge cheers.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to compete in the Olympics. I don’t want to wake up from this dream.”
Anis is one of 10 athletes competing as part of a Refugee Olympic Team. They hail from Syria, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Democratic Republic of Congo, some of the most troubled parts of the world.
During the opening ceremony, International Olympic Committee President, Thomas Bach, gave a stirring address about the team.
“Dear refugee athletes. You are sending a message of hope to all the many millions of refugees around the globe. You had to flee from your homes because of violence, hunger or just because you were different.
“Now with your great talent and human spirit you are making a great contribution to society. In this Olympic world, we do not just tolerate diversity. In this Olympic world, we welcome you as an enrichment to our unity in diversity.”
“I want to shine the spotlight on the plight of refugees. I want to show the best possible image of refugees or Syrian people, or anyone who has suffered injustice in the world, and tell them to not lose hope.”