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Visa backs refugee athletes in Games

Thursday, July 21, 2016 - 01:29

The credit card company became the first corporate sponsor of the Olympics' refugee team. But as Jane Lee reports, using refugees in ads is controversial.

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"Accept me because I've swum against the current to where I belong. Accept me." An ad by Visa with refugee Olympian Yusra Mardini, an elite swimmer from Syria who swam three hours as she helped drag a small boat carrying over a dozen other refugees to the Greek shore. Visa saying Wednesday it signed sponsorship deals with all ten members of the first refugee team of stateless athletes who fled war and oppression from Syria, South Sudan, Congo and Ethiopia. But the language in the ads are raising eyebrows, says Reuters Liana Baker. SOUNDBITE: LIANA BAKER, REPORTER, REUTERS, (ENGLISH) SAYING: "We don't know the IOC's role in brokering these deals between the refugees and Visa, so there's a lot of questions. I showed one refugee advocate some of the creatives Visa had made and they thought that it was kind of a cheap connection between acceptance of a refugee into a country and acceptance in terms of the Visa brand, which consumers associate with credit cards." Visa has told Reuters it's focusing on the positives for now and the contracts are "identical, comparable deals" to the sponsorship agreements it has with more well-known athletes. One of the first names among the refugee Olympians Visa signed is Yusra Mardini, an elite swimmer who left Syria last August. Mardini and her sister swam for more than three hours in the open sea to get to Greece after the small boat she was on started to capsize. She helped more than a dozen or so people on the boat survive the journey who could not swim. The IOC introduced its inaugural refugee team in June to draw attention to the plight of refugees. The six men and four women will compete in swimmng, judo and athletics and will march with the Olympic flag just before host Brazil at the opening ceremony.

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Visa backs refugee athletes in Games

Thursday, July 21, 2016 - 01:29