Refugee Athletes Join Festival of Olympian and Paralympian Experiences

Yusra Mardini, swimmer and member of IOC Refugee Olympic Team Rio 2016.
  • Member of IOC Refugee Olympic Team Rio 2016 and swimmer, Yusra Mardini, to host resilience Experience to connect with fans and help put into perspective global perceptions of refugees.
  • Tegla Loroupe, Chef de Mission for the IOC Refugee Olympic Team, to transport guests virtually to her training camp in Kenya with James Chiengjiek Nyang, OLY and IOC Refugee Olympic Team Rio 2016 member to share their motivation, Olympic journey and goals for the future.
  • Online Experiences to provide new economic opportunities for Olympic Refugee Athlete Scholarship-holders, including new Experience hosts Amir Al Awad, Masomah Ali Zada, Asif Sultani, and Ehsan Naghibzadeh, as well as Ibrahim Al Hussein, who competed in Rio 2016 as an Independent Paralympic Athletes Team member.

Airbnb, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) are announcing a five-day summer festival featuring more than 100 Olympian and Paralympian Online Experiences hosted virtually by athletes. Yusra Mardini and IOC Refugee Olympic Team Chef de Mission, Tegla Loroupe joined by Rio 2016 Olympian, IOC Refugee Olympic Team hopeful for Tokyo 2020 and co-host, James Chiengjiek Nyang, are set to take center stage as honored hosts to share their passion, interact with fans around the world, and raise awareness around the global refugee crisis. They will be joined by Refugee Athlete Scholarship-holders, Amir Al Awad (wrestling), Masomah Ali Zada (cycling), Asif Sultani (karate), Ehsan Naghibzadeh (taekwondo) and Ibrahim Al Hussein (Para swimming).

Syrian swimmer, Yusra Mardini—whose story became known for saving 20 lives with her sister, including their own, on a treacherous journey from Syria to find safety in Europe and became a member of the first ever IOC Refugee Olympic Team in Rio 2016—will host a one-off workshop on resilience. While Gold medalist, World Record holder and sporting legend, Tegla Loroupe, along  with James Chiengjiek Nyang, will transport guests virtually to the Tegla Loroupe Training Centre in Kenya. Tegla has been the guide and mentor to the first-ever IOC Refugee Olympic Team created by the IOC in Rio 2016.

As part of five days of programming over multiple time zones, starting on July 24, when the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 were originally scheduled to commence, Yusra, Tegla, James, Amir, Masomah, Asif, Ehsan and Ibrahim will join the summer festival line up to share their passion and expertise—while also raising awareness around the refugee crisis and standing in solidarity with their fellow refugee athletes. Proceeds from Tegla’s bookings will go to the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation, which promotes peace through sports, while proceeds from Yusra’s bookings will go to Give Something Back to Berlin.

“Through my Experience on Airbnb I want guests to be inspired and find new ways to stay motivated. I’ve been working to alter global perceptions of refugees, and want to use this opportunity to raise up my fellow athletes, and share my story with the world.”

Yusra Mardini, Member of IOC Refugee Olympic Team Rio 2016

IOC Refugee Athlete Scholarship-holders, Masomah and Amir, will also be offering new Online Experiences as part of the summer festival and on an ongoing basis. Masomah, a cyclist, will host a cooking experience sharing her love for Afghanistan, her country of origin, her experiences as a refugee, and her life as a cyclist aiming for Tokyo 2020, all while cooking Mantus, an iconic Afghan dish.

Asif, a karate athlete, will share his personal story of survival and resilience with the goal to empower and inspire guests to become the best versions of themselves. Guiding guests through a meditative training session that has helped him perform both physically and mentally, Asif will then jump into a quick workout. While Amir, a wrestler, will host a self-defense class with a goal to empower people to feel safer in the world.

“By sharing my experience with the world it might inspire others to overcome obstacles in their own life.” 

Amir Al Awad, IOC Refugee Athlete Scholarship-holder

Ehsan, a taekwondo athlete, is aiming to make sure you enjoy a great workout no matter how fit you are, and will host guests on a short but intensive fitness class while sharing tips on how to feel healthy in mind and body. Ibrahim, a Para swimmer, wants to help guests chase their dreams through his Online Experience, showing how to visualize your goals and ambitions, and inspiring you to think beyond barriers.

“It is an honor to have Yusra, Tegla, James, Masomah, Asif, Ehsan, Amir and Ibrahim share their passion and expertise as Online Experience hosts this summer. Together, we want to celebrate the people and stories behind the Refugee Olympic and Paralympic Teams on their journey to Tokyo 2020 and beyond.”

Joe Gebbia, Airbnb Co-founder & Head of Samara

Syrian refugee swimmer Ibrahim Al Hussein stretches during a practice session for media in a training pool during the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games at Olympic Park on September 17, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Online Experiences can provide new economic opportunities for Olympic Refugee Team hopefuls and Paralympic hopefuls, and Airbnb is working closely with the IOC, the IPC and global organizations to find new economic opportunities for refugees and refugee athletes.

As part of its nine years, five Games partnership with the IOC and IPC, Airbnb is committed to continuing to address the challenges faced by refugees around the world and to establish further programs to provide longer-term support to refugees, including new opportunities for earning income.

The IOC has a long-standing commitment to refugees, including a cooperation with UNHCR since 1994, the creation of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team for the Olympic Games Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020, and the creation of the Olympic Refuge Foundation in 2017. Airbnb has separately been supporting refugee initiatives since 2015 through its Open Homes Program, which connects generous hosts with those in need of temporary accommodation, including refugees. To date, more than 35,000 people have been housed in times of need.