The Refugee Olympic Team, set to be announced during the IOC Executive Board meeting tomorrow, will be bigger than the one chosen for Rio 2016, when it made its debut ©Getty Images

The announcement of an expanded Refugee Olympic Team for Tokyo 2020 will be the highlight of the opening day of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board meeting tomorrow.

It is expected that up to 35 athletes could be selected, representing a significant increase on the 10 who competed in three sports at Rio 2016 when the squad made its debut.

Thanks to scholarships provided by the IOC, 55 promising refugee athletes from 13 countries have been given the opportunity to qualify for Tokyo 2020.

Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Egypt, France, Germany, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Luxembourg, Portugal, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom have all hosted athletes.

They compete in 12 sports - athletics, badminton, boxing, canoeing, cycling, judo, karate, taekwondo, shooting sport, swimming, weightlifting, and wrestling.

IOC officials will be hoping that the announcement of the team - whose official acronym at Tokyo 2020 will EOR, based on the French name Equipe Olympique des Réfugiés, rather than the unfortunate “ROT” that was used at Rio 2016 - will provide some rare positive news in this Olympic build-up.

The IOC and Tokyo 2020 are battling worldwide criticism that they are continuing to press ahead with preparations for the re-arranged Games, due to open on July 23 and conclude on August 8, in the face of consistent public opposition in Japan.

There remain fears that hosting an event with more than 10,000 athletes from over 200 countries could help accelerate the spread of COVID-19 and put the brakes on Japan emerging from the pandemic.

Kenya's former world marathon record holder Tegla Loropue will be Chef de Mission for the Refugee Olympic Team at Tokyo 2020, a role she also carried out at Rio 2016 ©Getty Images
Kenya's former world marathon record holder Tegla Loropue will be Chef de Mission for the Refugee Olympic Team at Tokyo 2020, a role she also carried out at Rio 2016 ©Getty Images

During the Opening Ceremony, the EOR Team will march with the Olympic flag in second position, immediately after Greece.

For all official representations of the team, including possible medal ceremonies, the Olympic flag will be raised, and the Olympic anthem played.

The Team’s Chef de Mission will be former world marathon record holder Tegla Loroupe, a position that the Kenyan also fulfilled at Rio 2016.

She will again be assisted by Deputy Chef de Mission Stephen Pattison from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva.

Like all the other 206 National Olympic Committees taking part at Tokyo 2020, the team will stay at the Olympic Village and get its own welcome ceremony when they check in.

The three-day virtual Executive Board meeting is due to be the last one before the IOC gather in Tokyo.

As well as reports from Tokyo 2020, there are also due to be updates on future Olympic Games at Paris 2024, Milan Cortina 2026 and Los Angeles 2028.

Also expected to be discussed is the situation in Belarus, who still face the threat of sanctions following the harsh crackdown by the country’s President Alexander Lukashenko following his controversial re-election last August.

Athletes have been among those detained or punished by the regime, leading the IOC to sanction Belarusian sports officials and warn other sports bodies to "respect these measures in the interest of protecting Belarusian athletes' rights".