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Refugee Olympic Team Gets Notice, But Is It Enough?

Syrian refugee team swimmer Yusra Mardini swims in Rio de Janeiro before the Olympics.

Syrian refugee team swimmer Yusra Mardini swims in Rio de Janeiro before the Olympics.

This is What’s Trending Today.

It should come as no surprise that some of the top trending stories and names this week are tied to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

A few examples are #openingceremony, Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky, Catalina Usme and Pita Taufatofua.

American swimmers Phelps and Ledecky have gold medals at the Rio Olympics. Usme, a member of Colombia’s soccer team, had two goals Tuesday night against Team USA in a surprise 2-2 tie. And Taufatofua carried the flag for Tonga during the opening ceremony last Friday.

But another top online search is the term “refugee team.”

People around the world, but mainly in Canada, Australia and the United States, are looking for more information about the 10-member refugee team at the Rio Games. That information comes from Google, the search engine.

The International Olympic Committee set up the refugee team in an effort to bring more attention on refugees from Africa and the Middle East.

Over the past two years, there has been a large increase in the number of refugees worldwide. The United Nations’ Refugee Agency says there are over 65 million displaced people. That number rose by almost 6 million last year.

The UN agency says people originally from Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia make up the largest group of refugees.

The refugee team at the Olympics includes athletes from Syria, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia.

Swimmer Yusra Mardini came from Syria. She is now living in Germany. She competed in two swimming events, and teammate Rami Anis, also from Syria, competed in a men’s swimming event.

Mardini is the most popular refugee athlete, based on web searches.

People searched for Popole Misenga of Democratic Republic of Congo after he won his first event in the 90 kilogram judo competition. He was ousted in the next round.

The refugee team is getting attention. But some people think the world is only interested in refugees when they are performing at the Olympics.

Popole Misenga won his first judo bout in Rio.

Popole Misenga won his first judo bout in Rio.

Google reports that in September 2015, “refugee crisis” was a popular search term. But now there are relatively few searches using those words, while the term “refugee team” is trending.

Roger Cohen wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times this week. It is called “The World Loves Refugees, When They’re Olympians.”

He wrote that “the world is moved by Team Refugees. Yet, it is unmoved by refugees.” He urged people cheering for the refugees at the Olympics to show the same interest and compassion for those refugees who are living in their community or country.

And that’s What’s Trending Today.

I’m Dan Friedell.

Dan Friedell wrote this story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

What do you think of the refugee team so far? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.


Words in This Story

judo – n. a sport developed in Japan in which opponents attempt to throw or wrestle each other to the ground

compassion – n. a feeling of wanting to help someone who is sick, hungry, in trouble, etc.

athlete – n. a person who is trained in or good at sports, games, or exercises that require physical skill and strength

round – n. a stage of a sports competition in which each player or team plays against an opponent and the winner is allowed to continue to the next stage

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