Ethiopian origin refugee Yonas Kinde is among the 43 potential candidates identified by International Olympic Committee for the inclusion in the team with the final selection to take into account sporting ability, personal circumstances and United Nations-verified refugee status. In order to pay for athlete training, a fund of US$2 million was created by the IOC. National Olympic Committees (NOCs) were then asked to identify any displaced athletes in their countries who might be able to reach Olympic standard.
An initial three athletes were identified as potential competitors for Rio; Yusra Mardini, a 17-year-old Syrian swimmer, who crossed from Turkey into Greece in inflatable boat before crossing Europe by train through mainland Greece, the Balkans, Hungary and Austria to eventually reach Germany where she now lives and trains; Raheleh Asemani, an Iranian taekwondo athlete training in Belgium; and judoka Popole Misenga, originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo but now living in Brazil. Mardini and Asemani have received IOC Olympic Solidarity scholarships. Asemani was later granted Belgian citizenship and has applied to compete instead for the Belgian team, with International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach saying that such permission was expected to be granted.
Additional candidates for selection have been identified from Syria, cyclists Ahmad Badr Waid and Nazir Jaser and triathleteMohamad Masoo, and in Kenya where a support program run by former marathon world record holder Tegla Loroupe has identified 23 athletes from the Kakuma refugee camp.
On 3 June 2016 the IOC announced a team of ten athletes would compete as part of the refugee team at the Games.