Grey London Celebrates the First-Ever Refugee Olympic Team

By Erik Oster 

Had enough Olympics-themed campaigns yet?

Grey London partnered with The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and production company Just So to launch “Champions Against All Odds,” a 90-second spot documenting the first-ever refugee Olympic team.

The team, which consists of ten refugees from Syria, Ethiopia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, will make history as the first of its kind when it marches in the opening ceremony tomorrow at the 2016 Rio Olympics before going on to compete in the games.


Funded by the International Olympic Committee, the team is meant to draw attention to the refugee crisis in these countries and other areas. “Champions against all odds” introduces the team with images of the war-torn regions they have fled interspersed with training athletes. “Against all odds” appears onscreen as footage of a refugee boat hitting shore fades into a wave cresting at the edge of a pool, “10 refugees will compete in Brazil.” These athletes, the spot clarifies, will compete “Not for personal glory,” but “for the millions fleeing conflict.” In the words of some of the refugees themselves, “We may not have a nation, but we will represent millions of refugees.”

With the 2016 Rio Olympics just a day away, we’re well past the point of saturation on Olympic stories. But “Champions against all odds” is different. Rather than another spot about individual star athletes training hard and overcoming adversity or celebrating some vague notion of Olympic spirit and togetherness, it shares a new narrative of a very different kind of Olympic team.

“These ten remarkable athletes embody the determination and resilience of the many millions of people fleeing conflict and persecution worldwide,” a UNHCR spokeswoman told Campaign. “They remind us that refugees are people just like you and me, people who want to achieve their full potential against all odds.”

In addition to the 90-second spot, which was released yesterday on the UNHCR’s YouTube page, the campaign also includes a “#WithRefugees” petition which launched on June 1, calling for more aid to refugees. There’s also a long-form documentary which is still in production and has yet to receive a release date.