Some fans at the Olympics are waving a new flag in the stands—orange and black and inspired by a life jacket. Designed by a Syrian refugee now living in Amsterdam, it’s part of a project to support this year’s first-ever refugee team.
A group of creatives heard about the new team a few months ago—and the fact that they wouldn’t have a flag to march behind, or a national anthem of their own—and decided to help.
“We felt that we needed to do something to give them an identity, a flag and an anthem they could call their own–national symbols that could really represent these brave people,” say Artur Lipori and Caro Rebello, two of the people behind the project.
It’s also meant to give fans a way to show support: right now, the refugees are officially represented by the Olympic flag and anthem.
The group, who worked with the support of Amnesty International, searched for refugees to create both the flag and the anthem. “We didn’t go through the pains these people did,” say Lipori and Rebello. “We didn’t know their stories. So we figured out that we needed a refugee artist to design the flag and a refugee composer to write the music. Because they know more and better than us how it is to be a refugee and how better translate this sentiment to an actual symbol.”
Yara Said, the young flag designer, fled Syria after graduating from Damascus University. Moutaz Arian, a composer and Syrian refugee now living in Istanbul, fled Syria after Assad’s army tried to force him to fight.
“We read a quote from him which made us feel he was the right one: ‘I want to make music not just for Kurds and Arabs. I want to make music for the whole world,'” say Rebello and Lipori.
Because the International Olympic Committee has a strict protocol, the new refugee flag and anthem aren’t yet approved for use in official ceremonies. But the group is working with the IOC to try to make that happen. In the meantime, fans are already carrying the flags.
“We’ve seen lots of people in the games carrying our flag, and that’s for us the most important thing,” they say. “We created a way to help people to cheer for these athletes, and that’s exactly what’s happening. We are still working to get out flag during the refugee athletes competitions and in the final ceremony. We hope we can be there.”
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