English News

  • youtube
  • facebook
  • twitter

Afghan para athletes warmly welcomed in Tokyo amid concern

People being evacuated from the Kabul airport (Photo: IANS)

Despite the turmoil and confusion reigning in Afghanistan, the country has managed to send two para athletes to the Tokyo Paralympic Games.  

Amid growing uncertainty about their participation in the games due to the takeover of the country by Taliban militants, the two athletes–Zakia Khudadadi, para-taekwondo player and Hossain Rasouli, track athlete, arrived in Tokyo from Paris.

Zakia is Afghanistan's first female athlete to compete at the Paralympic Games since Athens 2004 while Hossain will participate in the long jump event as his 100-metres event has already ended. An IPC statement said that the two are living in the athletes' village and have begun preparing for their events.

IPC spokesman Craig Spence said: "Both athletes expressed their sincere gratitude for their safe evacuation from Kabul, and the opportunity to fulfill a life-long dream of attending a Paralympic Games".

He added that they will receive "all the care and support they need both during and after" the games.

Evacuated from Afghanistan through a major international collaboration, they were given a warm welcome by International Paralympic Committee officials–IPC President Andrew Parsons and IPC Athletes' Council Chairperson Chelsey Gotell.

Before arriving in Tokyo, they had spent a week in Paris at the National Institute of Sport Expertise and Performance (INSEP), the French sports ministry's high-performance training centre.

Parsons said: "Twelve days ago we were informed that the Afghan Paralympic Team could not travel to Tokyo, a move that broke the hearts of all involved in the Paralympic Movement and left both athletes devastated. That announcement kickstarted a major global operation that led to their safe evacuation from Afghanistan, their recuperation in France, and now their safe arrival in Tokyo".

The IPC chief said the reason they were taken to Paris first was to ensure their safe health. The two athletes were tested twice for Covid-19, 96 hours and 72 hours before departure and were again tested at the Tokyo airport.