“Every time England or Great Britain takes part in something I’m always supporting them. My dream is for us to beat our medal total in 2008,” sports-mad refugee Kolbassia told Refugee Week as their UK-wide programme of events get under way.
Kolbassia has spent the last three years volunteering as a Trailblazer to help London prepare for 2012 and will be working in the Basketball Arena for the Olympics themselves.
It was only a few years ago that Kolbassia came to the UK seeking sanctuary. He has since learned English, graduated with a Master’s degree from university, and now works with Freedom from Torture and coordinates the Survivors Speak Out Network of torture survivors in the UK.
Kolbassia found that his passion for sport was one of the main ways which helped him integrate into his community.
“I would go to the pub to watch Arsenal play on television. I met another guy who was also an Arsenal fan and we got chatting about football. He invited me to come to a training session for his team – now I’ve been playing with them for years.”
In 2010 Kolbassia celebrated British citizenship and is firmly in Team GB’s camp for the 2012 Olympics.
“When London was chosen as the host city for 2012 I was really excited because I didn’t have the opportunity in my home country to be in a city where there would be a major tournament taking place.”
Polling in British Future’s State of the Nation report showed those born outside the UK felt a slightly higher level of strong belonging to Britain (70%) than those born in the UK (66%).
Kolbassia’s story adds further credence to the idea that the activities around the Olympics and the Jubilee have the power to bring many people together, and to open doors across roads where friendships can start.
“I wanted to be able to say that I was one of the people who did something towards this massive event.”
Refugee Week is a UK-wide programme of arts, cultural and educational events and activities that celebrates the contribution of refugees to the UK. Find out about any events in your area during Refugee Week here.
Read more of our articles on the Olympics and national identity:
Olympic games is not an Anglocentric affair
Humour is great part of British Olympics
The real Olympic opening ceremony?
Olympic bosses should not let mad branding rules hit Games fever
Fans at Olympics say good chance for “everyone to come together”
Or watch our Olympic interviews and videos:
British Future director Sunder Katwala at the very first Olympic event of 2012
British Future at the Olympics’ first day
British Future interviews crowd at first match of Olympic Games
British Future interview with football fans at Olympic Games match in Cardiff