300 young refugees and students from a refugee background today learned new skills and sports alongside New Zealand Olympians.

The Olympic Refugee Sport Day event saw refugees aged between 11 and 18 given the opportunity to have a go at 10 different sports at Auckland’s Trusts Arena.

New Zealand Olympic Committee Youth Olympic Games Chef de Mission Barbara Kendall says the event helped to aid the refugees’ integration into New Zealand society.

“Sport and recreation has a significant positive impact on refugees’ well-being and development, so we organised today to help these young people have a bit of fun, try some new sports and make new friends.”

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The event was held to jointly mark World Refugee Day (June 20th) and Olympic Day (June 23rd).

Refugees came from schools across Auckland, while others who have recently arrived in the country came from the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre.

17 year old Younis Ahmat Adballah, who came to New Zealand from The Sudan, says the day exposed him to a range of people from a similar background.

“I’ve enjoyed seeing all the different cultures and I’ve met some really great people. Basketball, soccer and golf were the best sports I tried today and hopefully I’ll get to keep playing them.”

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The refugees were welcomed to the event with an opening ceremony run by refugee performance group Mixit. MP Golriz Ghahraman, who arrived to New Zealand as a refugee, then opened proceedings before the youths received coaching from Olympians including Pippa Hayward (hockey) and Tim Slyfield (judo).

Refugees As Survivors CEO Ann Hood says sports help refugees fit into a new community.

“This is a great way to get these young people involved in sports which are an intrinsic part of New Zealand life. Unfortunately some of them come from families where sport is unaffordable so you can see on their faces how much fun they’re having today.”

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The day was made possible with funding from the International Olympic Committee’s Olympic Solidarity programme.

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