From Syria to Rio: Visa shares refugee’s journey during Olympics opening ceremony

Visa, the official payments partner of the Rio Olympic Games, has debuted a powerful spot that chronicles the journey of Olympic swimmer and Syrian refugee Yusura Mardini, who lives and trains in Berlin, Germany.

In escaping the Syrian war, Mardini heroically assisted in pulling her boat with 17 more refugees to safety in the Mediterranean Sea. “The Swim,” an excellent 30-second spot, will debut during tonight’s opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games, and was created by BBDO New York.

In a statement, Chris Curtin, chief marketing marketing innovation and brand officer for Visa said: ”The refugee Olympic athletes are inspiring the world with their incredible stories of perseverance and bravery, overcoming great odds to get to the top of their respective sports and compete on the world's stage. These athletes … embody Visa's belief in acceptance for everyone, everywhere."

Mardini is part of the International Olympic Committee’s first-ever team of refugee Olympic athletes, known as the Refugee Olympic Team (ROT). The 10 athletes, Mardini included, will march with the Olympic flag, before the host nation, Brazil, during the opening ceremony, with the goal of shining a spotlight on the global refugee crisis. Other athletes have come from other areas of conflict such as South Sudan, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Like all teams at the Olympic Games, the ROT will have its own entourage to meet all the required technical needs of the athletes. Olympian and former marathon world record-holder Tegla Loroupe (Kenya) was named the team’s Chef de Mission, while Isabela Mazão (Brazil), who was proposed by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), will act as the Deputy Chef de Mission. They will lead a crew of five coaches and five other team officials.

Visa is supporting both Olympic and Paralympic athletes, more than 30 in all, as part of Team Visa — and includes high-profile athletes such as Carli Lloyd and Ashton Eaton of the United States and Emanual Rego and Tiago Splitter of host nation Brazil.


Client: Visa

Title: "The Swim”

Agency: BBDO New York

  • Chief Creative Officer, Worldwide: David Lubars
  • Chief Creative Officer, New York: Greg Hahn
  • Executive Creative Director: Michael Aimette
  • Creative Director: Melinda Kanipe
  • Creative Director: Levi Slavin
  • CD Art Director: Daniel Burke
  • CD Writer: Josh Parschauer
  • Group Executive Producer: Diane Hill
  • Music Producer: Rani Vaz
  • Project Manager: Erica Watts
  • EVP, Global Account Director: Olivia Farr
  • SVP, Account Director: Emily Morris
  • Account Manager: Stephanie Repins
  • Account Executive: Cam Cullman
  • Assistant Account Executive: Danielle Minch
  • SVP Group Director, Behavioral Planning: Matt Riley

Production Company: Knucklehead

  • Knucklehead EP: Matthew Brown
  • Production Company Berlin: Cobblestone FilmProduktion
  • Cobblestone EP :Juri Wiesner
  • Director: Siri Bunford
  • Line Producer: Matthew Brown
  • Director of Photography: Ben Smithard
  • Edit House: Whitehouse Post
  • Executive Producer: Lauren Hertzberg
  • Producer: Alejandra Alarcon
  • Editor: Russell Icke
  • Assistant Editor: Tim Quackenbush
  • Assistant Editor: Theo Mercado
  • Audio House: Heard City
  • Engineer: Evan Mangiamele
  • Producer: Sasha Awn
  • Telecine Company: Company 3
  • Telecine Artist: Tom Poole
  • Producer: Clare Movshon

VFX Finish Company: MPC

  • Executive Producer: Camilla De Biaggi
  • Producer: Elissa Norman
  • VFX Flame Supervisor: Seif Boutella
  • Flame Artist: Amanda Amalfi
  • VFX Supervisor: Bill McNamara
  • Music Company: Barking Owl Sound
  • Creative Director: Kelly Bayett
  • Composer: Houston Fry
  • Producer: KC Dossett
  • Track Name: “Celebrate” :30

Sound Designer: Aaron Glascock

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