It was a coincidence that Taiwanese-Australian Ray Chen was on the radio making his BBC Proms debut with Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor as I read about the first Refugee Team in Olympic history.
What’s the connection, you might ask. It is this: Bruch lived and worked at a time of great global instability. When World War I ended, he was effectively destitute because he was unable to enforce the payment of royalties for his compositions because of chaotic economic conditions worldwide. He was allegedly also stiffed by the American duo-pianist Sutro sisters for another of his works and died poorer than he should’ve been considering his great talent and ability.
So to the Olympics Refugee Team. It has been formed at a time of great global chaos. In representing the world’s displaced and dispossessed, it seeks to force the planet to focus on the magnitude of the refugee crisis. In a sense, it speaks for what I heard just the other day, at a diplomatic soiree here in Tunis. A top United Nations official and that of the International Organisation of Migration were shaking their heads over the 1951 Refugee Convention. It’s not relevant anymore, they said. It needs to be rewritten. The issue must be framed in terms of “shared global responsibility”, said the UN official.
That would be the hope and the Refugee Team may perhaps, go some way towards humanizing a people who lose their country and then are stripped off their dignity. In representing the 65 million people displaced (internally, or outside their country) by war and persecution, the Refugee Team is already a champion.