Syria's 'camp Olympics'

Hurling a javelin, leaping over hurdles and sprinting beyond rows of tents to win gold, displaced children in the north-west of war-torn Syria staged their very own Olympics.

As the Tokyo Olympics wrapped up earlier this month, 120 boys from 12 camps excitedly gathered for their own version of the Games in Idlib, Syria’s last major rebel bastion.

Each wearing the colour of his camp, it was the boys’ turn to be the star athletes on a running track and soccer pitch etched in the red earth beside the tent settlement of Yaman near Idlib city.

Among the participants at the “Tent Olympics 2020”, Walid Mohammed al-Hassan, 12, was delighted to have represented his camp in the long jump.

“We had such fun,” he said, three fellow team mates huddled around him with their arms draped over his shoulders.

“I won second place in the long jump.”

The eight-to 14-year-olds competed in a host of disciplines.

Also on the programme were javelin, discus, high jump, hurdles, gymnastics, martial arts, volleyball, badminton, football, running and even “horse racing”.

As the sun set, participants and organisers cheered wildly as the winners stepped up onto the podium to receive their medals under a shower of confetti.

The Idlib region is home to nearly three million people, two-thirds of them displaced from other parts of Syria over the course of its 10-year conflict.

The majority of those who have lost their homes live in camps dotted across the militant-dominated region, dependent on humanitarian aid to survive and battling the cold and floods in winter.


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Organiser Ibrahim Sarmini said the event aimed to give the children some hope, but also draw the attention of the international community to their plight.

They wanted “to introduce the kids to different kinds of sports that we, as a society, hadn’t really tried before”, he said.

But “the main aim was to shine a light on the camp residents, children and adults, who are living a very tough life”, said the representative of Syrian charity Benefits.


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