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Sport and entertainment talent "in conversation" with the IOC Refugee Olympic Team Tokyo 2020

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Sport and entertainment talent "in conversation" with the IOC Refugee Olympic Team Tokyo 2020

Joint IOC/UNHCR/Discovery Press Release
23 June 2021 Also available in:
Germany. Refugee, Olympic swimmer and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Yusra Mardini during training for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics
Syrian refugee, Olympic swimmer and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Yusra Mardini at the pool she uses to train for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
  • First ‘In Conversation’ episode launches on 23 June, Olympic Day, in support of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team Tokyo 2020 who represent over 80 million forcibly displaced people around the world.
  • Featuring Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, Yusra Mardini with US Olympian and 5-time gold medallist Katie Ledecky.
  • Future episodes in the build-up to Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 to include refugee athletes Anjelina Nadai Lohalith and Alaa Maso, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassadors Nomzamo Mbatha and Alphonso Davies, and many more.
  • ‘In Conversation’ premieres on 23 June 2021 across, UNHCR and Discovery platforms, including discovery+ and

As part of the 23 June Olympic Day celebrations and in the week marking World Refugee Day, an exclusive series of interviews will tell the inspirational stories of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Refugee Olympic Team athletes by bringing them together with big names in film, entertainment and sport.

Premiering in the build-up to Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, the episodes feature members of the unique IOC Refugee Olympic Team that will bring together 29 athletes to compete at the Games this summer. Originating from 11 countries around the world, the team was created by the IOC and its President, Thomas Bach, ahead of Olympic Games Rio 2016. The series showcases the athletes’ stories to send inspiring messages of hope and resilience to the world’s 82.4 million forcibly displaced people.

Produced by Eurosport, Discovery’s leading multi-sport brand and the Home of the Olympics in Europe*, in partnership with the IOC and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, ‘In Conversation’ seeks to introduce new audiences to some of these inspiring Olympic refugee athletes. The conversations will provide new perspectives on refugees’ stories and raise awareness of the power of sport to help displaced people rebuild their lives. 

In Conversation: Yusra & Katie provides a unique perspective. The youngest ever UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, Yusra Mardini, who was a member of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team Rio 2016 and will compete at Tokyo 2020 this summer, meets five-time Olympic Games gold medallist in swimming, Katie Ledecky. Also set to compete at Tokyo 2020 for Team USA, Ledecky is the most decorated woman in swimming history including 15 World Championship gold medals as well as her Olympic titles.

Later episodes will see UNHCR Goodwill Ambassadors such as actress Nomzamo Mbatha and footballer and former refugee Alphonso Davies paired with members of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team, including Anjelina Nadai Lohalith, the South Sudan-born 1500M athlete, and freestyle swimmer Alaa Maso, originally from Aleppo, Syria. As each athlete and supporter become acquainted, intimate conversations follow and capture the compelling stories of the athletes, their challenging journeys, and how they have overcome adversity to compete at the world’s greatest sporting event. The series can be found across UNHCR, IOC and Discovery platforms, including discovery+ and

‘In Conversation’ follows the IOC’s announcement of the Refugee Olympic Team headed to Tokyo 2020 earlier this month. A campaign to further support for the IOC Refugee Olympic Team Tokyo 2020 will be launched by Eurosport, in partnership with the IOC, in July.

*Excludes Russia. Official Broadcaster in France and the UK for Tokyo 2020.

Notes to Editor

Episode 1 (In Conversation: Yusra & Katie):

Link to episode and embed here.

Transcript and assets available here.

About Yusra Mardini:

Syrian refugee and Olympic swimmer Yusra Mardini was appointed the youngest ever Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency in April 2017, aged just 19. She advocates for refugees globally through sharing her own inspiring story and has become a powerful voice for the forcibly displaced across the world and an example of their resilience and determination to rebuild lives and positively contribute to host communities.

Yusra was selected to compete at Rio 2016 as part of the first ever Refugee Olympic Team. She was catapulted on to the world’s stage and subsequently went on to address world leaders at the UN General Assembly, meet the Pope and be honoured with several awards. Yusra’s incredible story is told in her memoir ‘Butterfly: From Refugee to Olympian - My Story of Rescue, Hope and Triumph’ which is currently being adapted into a film.

Yusra has spoken on behalf of UNHCR at Google Zeitgeist, WE Day, the World Economic Forum in Davos and many other global stages. She also supports UNHCR campaigns and events and fundraising activities. Yusra will compete at Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 this summer.

About Katie Ledecky:

Katie Ledecky is a 5-time Olympic Gold medallist and 15-time World Championship Gold medallist who will be competing at the Tokyo Olympics this summer. Katie has dominated on the world stage since the age of 15 where she was the youngest athlete on Team USA at the 2012 London Games, winning her first Olympic Gold medal. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Katie was the most decorated female athlete winning four Gold medals, one Silver medal, and breaking two world records.

As the granddaughter of a Czech émigré who defected to the US in 1947, Katie continues to spread awareness about the plight of refugees around the world through her involvement with the UN Refugee Agency. Katie is a recent graduate of Stanford University with a B.A. in Psychology and is passionate about the importance of education, especially STEM and leadership programs for girls.

Press Contacts:




About the IOC Refugee Olympic Team:
At the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in October 2015, confronted with the global refugee crisis that has seen millions of people in the world displaced, IOC President Thomas Bach announced the creation of the Refugee Olympic Team – the first of its kind – to take part in the Olympic Games Rio 2016. Ten months on from the announcement, 10 refugee athletes, were competing alongside 11,000 fellow athletes in Brazil, sending a message of hope and inclusion to millions of refugees around the world and inspiring the world with the strength of their human spirit. Following the success of the Refugee Olympic Team Rio 2016, the IOC decided in 2018 that there would be an IOC Refugee Olympic Team Tokyo 2020.

On 8 June 2021, the IOC announced that 29 athletes competing in 12 sports will take part in the Games this summer. This unique project demonstrates the IOC’s commitment to stand with refugees and support them through sport, and it also shows how Olympic Solidarity, through its Refugee Athlete Support Programme, helps refugee athletes not only to train with the aim of qualifying for the Olympic Games but also to continue their sporting career and build their future. A IOC Refugee Olympic Team is planned for both the Olympic Games Paris 2024 and the Youth Olympic Games Dakar 2026.You can follow and support the IOC Refugee Olympic Team on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

About UNHCR:
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for people forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution. We lead international action to protect refugees, forcibly displaced communities and people without a nationality. We deliver lifesaving assistance like shelter, food and water, help safeguard fundamental human rights, and develop solutions that ensure people have a safe place to call home where they can build a better future. We also work to ensure that stateless people are granted a nationality. We are in over 130 countries, using our expertise to protect and care for millions. For more information please visit:

About IOC:

The International Olympic Committee is a not-for-profit, civil, non-governmental, international organisation made up of volunteers which is committed to building a better world through sport. It redistributes more than 90 per cent of its income to the wider sporting movement, which means that every day the equivalent of USD 3.4 million goes to help athletes and sports organisations at all levels around the world.

About Discovery:

Discovery, Inc. (Nasdaq: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK) is a global leader in real life entertainment, serving a passionate audience of superfans around the world with content that inspires, informs and entertains. Discovery delivers over 8,000 hours of original programming each year and has category leadership across deeply loved content genres around the world. Available in 220 countries and territories and nearly 50 languages, Discovery is a platform innovator, reaching viewers on all screens, including TV Everywhere products such as the GO portfolio of apps; direct-to-consumer streaming services such as discovery+, Food Network Kitchen and MotorTrend OnDemand; digital-first and social content from Group Nine Media; a landmark natural history and factual content partnership with the BBC; and a strategic alliance with PGA TOUR to create the international home of golf. Discovery’s portfolio of premium brands includes Discovery Channel, HGTV, Food Network, TLC, Investigation Discovery, Travel Channel, MotorTrend, Animal Planet, Science Channel, and the forthcoming multi-platform JV with Chip and Joanna Gaines, Magnolia Network, as well as OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network in the U.S., Discovery Kids in Latin America, and Eurosport, the leading provider of locally relevant, premium sports and Home of the Olympic Games across Europe. For more information, please visit and follow @DiscoveryIncTV across social platforms.

About discovery+:

discovery+ is the definitive non-fiction, real-life subscription streaming service. discovery+ will launch with a landmark partnership with Verizon that gives their customers with select plans up to 12 months of discovery+ on Verizon. At launch in the United States, discovery+ will have the largest-ever content offering of any new streaming service, featuring a wide range of exclusive, original series across popular, passion verticals in which Discovery brands have a strong leadership position, including lifestyle and relationships; home and food; true crime; paranormal; adventure and natural history; as well as science, tech and the environment and a slate of high-quality documentaries. For more, visit

About Eurosport:

Eurosport is the number one sport destination in Europe, unlocking the power of sport through localised content from the world’s greatest sporting events. As the Home of the Olympic Games in Europe, Discovery is bringing Eurosport to discovery+, the real-life direct-to-consumer streaming service, starting in a range of international markets during 2021. Firmly established as the Home of Cycling, Grand Slam Tennis and Winter Sport, Eurosport channels – Eurosport 1, Eurosport 2 – reach 246 million cumulative subscribers across 75 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. is Europe’s No 1 online sports news website with an average of 30 million unique users per month. Eurosport Events specializes in the management and promotion of international sporting events. More information is available by visiting