Paralympics in Tokyo: Arrival of Afghan Paralympians sends message of hope


A volunteer holds the Afghan flag at the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games in Tokyo
Volunteer holding the Afghan flag at the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games in Tokyo

The safe arrival of Afghan Paralympic athletes in Tokyo sends a “very strong message of hope,” says IPC spokesman Craig Spence.

Zakia Khaddadi and Hussain Rasouli arrive in Japan After leaving Kabul In a “global major operation”.

They were welcomed into the Athletes’ Village by a party including IPC President Andrew Parsons.

“As you can imagine, the meeting was very emotional,” Spence said.

“There were a lot of tears from everyone in the room. It was a really great meeting.”

Also participating in the meeting was the president of the ABC Sports Council, Chelsea Gutel, and the head of the Afghan team’s mission, Arian Sadeghi.

Khaddadi and Rasooli were among the thousands of people who were unable to leave Afghanistan after the Taliban seized power before the two were evacuated.

“We never gave up hope,” Parsons said.

“We always knew there was a remote chance for both athletes to participate in Tokyo 2020, which is why the Afghan flag was displayed at the opening ceremony on Tuesday.”

A volunteer raised the flag of Afghanistan at the opening ceremony.

IPC said on Wednesday that the couple are in a safe place. Since then, Parsons has revealed that they spent a week in France at the National Institute of Sports Experience and Performance, the French sports ministry’s high-performance training center, on their way to Japan.

“Twelve days ago, we learned that the Afghan Paralympic team could not travel to Tokyo, a move that broke the hearts of everyone involved in the Paralympic movement and left both athletes shattered,” Parsons said.

“This announcement began a major global operation that led to their safe evacuation from Afghanistan, their recovery by France, and now their safe arrival in Tokyo.

“Our number one priority has been and always will be the health and well-being of both athletes.”

“Throughout the time and moving forward, Zakia and Hussain’s physical and mental health will have the full support of the Paralympic family while we are with us,” added Chelsea Gutel, Chair of the IBC Sports Council.

Khaddadi, 23, will be the first woman ever to represent Afghanistan at the Paralympics.

On Thursday, she will compete in the women’s K44-49kg weight class, while Rasouli will line up in qualifying for the men’s T47 400m Athletics Championships on Friday.

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