Syrian refugee swimmer to carry Olympic flame in Greece

Syrian refugee athlete will carry the Olympic flame through Greek refugee camp

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Olympic flame second torch bearer, former volleyball player Giovane Gavio from Brazil (L), passes the torch to third bearer Dimitrios Mougios n the site of ancient Olympia, Greece, April 21, 2016

A Syrian athlete who lost his leg in a bombing and who found refuge from war in Greece will carry the Olympic flame through an Athens refugee camp, the UN refugee agency said Friday.

Ibrahim al Hussein, 27, will carry the torch on Tuesday through Eleonas camp, where some 1,500 asylum seekers have found temporary shelter as Europe struggles with its worst refugee crisis since World War Two.

The flame was kindled on Thursday in the 2,600-year-old Temple of Hera at Ancient Olympia, and it will be carried all the way to Rio in Brazil in time for the opening of the summer games on August 5.

Hussein, who comes from Syria's Deir Ezzor Province, on the Iraqi border, was an electrician as well as an award-winning swimmer and judo wrestler before the war erupted.

He lost half of his right leg in a bombing and fled for Turkey. From there, he travelled to the Greek island of Samos in 2014, on an inflatable boat.
A million other refugees were to follow suit in 2015, risking their lives to flee war, poverty and persecution mainly for Greece and Italy's shores.
Hussein filed for asylum in Greece, where he received a prosthetic leg.

He now works in a cafe in Athens, lives in a rented apartment and continues to be a passionate sportsman.
He plays basketball in a wheelchair and swims 50 metres (yards) in 28 seconds, he told the UN refugee agency in an interview published on its website.

"It is an honour," Hussein said of bearing the Olympic flame.

"Imagine achieving one of your biggest dreams. Imagine that your dream of more than 20 years is becoming a reality.

"I am carrying the flame for myself, but also for Syrians, for refugees everywhere, for Greece, for sports, for my swimming and basketball teams," he said.

"My goal is to never give up. But to go on, to always go forward. And that I can achieve through sports."

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach had during a January visit to Eleonas announced that a refugee would be asked to relay the torch through the camp.