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Young Syrian refugees explore new world through World Taekwondo’s Hope and Dreams Sports Festival

Syrian athletes from the Azraq refugee camp arrive in Amman, Jordan, May 3, for the third edition of the Hope and Dreams Sports Festival. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

AMMAN, Jordan — Othman Al-Ayoub, 17, who lives at the Azraq refugee camp in northern Jordan and trains in Taekwondo there, said he could not sleep a wink ahead of the special event he has been waiting for since February last year.It is the third annual edition of the World Taekwondo (WT) and Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation’s (THF) Hope and Dreams Sports Festival, which took place between May 1 and 3 at the Azraq and Za’atari refugee camps and central Amman, Jordan.For Al-Ayoub and his friends, who are sheltered in the enclosed area designated by the U.N. Refugee Agency, the closing event of the three-day festival is “the best and most beautiful time of the year.” They get a once-in-a-year chance to leave the refugee camp and interact with others through sports. Ali Al-Mutlaq, 15, and his brother Muhammad, 14, were also on cloud nine to join the festival.The two brothers and their friends danced and clapped along to rhythmic music on the bus during the early-morning two-hour ride from the Azraq refugee camp to central Amman. At around 8:40 a.m., as a

line of buses filled with hundreds of excited children entered a sports stadium complex in the capital, children waved out the windows and cheered. For some of them who were born inside the camp, it was their very first time to ever venture outside its fences.Over 600 young Syrian refugee athletes from the Azraq and Za’atari refugee camps, which each house 40,000 and 80,000 Syrian refugees fleeing from atrocities of their country’s civil war, came together to compete in four sports — taekwondo, baseball, badminton and basketball. The humanitarian sports initiative, which kicked off in 2022 as a single-sport event featuring only taekwondo, was joined this year by double the number of participants and sports from last year to share a message of peace.For the taekwondo tournament, some 350 trainees from taekwondo academies in the Za’atari and Azraq refugee camps joined the event.The most-spotlighted athlete among the participants was 20-year-old Yahya Al Ghotany from the Azraq refugee camp. He was selected a day earlier as one of the 36 refugee athletes to compete at the Paris Olympics in July, an honor which is the earnest dream of all his peers in the camp.Besides Al Ghotany, several other athletes of the same age gave their best performances in the games, while also being committed to guiding and coaching younger athletes throughout 스포츠토토존 the event.


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