The Afghan flag was flown in the Tokyo Paralympics Games’ opening ceremony in a poignant display Tuesday — despite the country’s athletes being unable to get to Tokyo to compete after the Taliban takeover.
Andrew Parsons, the president of the International Paralympic Committee, on Monday said the black, red and green flag would be carried by a representative of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees as a “sign of solidarity.”
Taekwondo athlete Zakia Khudadadi, 23, and discus thrower Hossain Rasouli, 24, would have been Afghanistan’s only athletes at the Paralympics.
Parsons said 162 delegations will be represented, including refugee athletes. The IPC has said about 4,400 athletes will compete in the Paralympics.
Afghan-born swimmer Abbas Karimi will take part in the Games as part of the Refugee Paralympic Team, Newsweek reported.
On Aug. 16, the Afghanistan Paralympic Committee said the athletes would not compete due to the unrest following the Taliban takeover.
“We would like to have them [Khudadadi and Rasouli] here, unfortunately it is not possible, but they will be here in spirit,” Parsons said a week later.
“It is important to highlight that as it is a message of solidarity and peace that we send to the world,” he added.
Khudadadi, who was born with a disability, won the first African 2016 Para-Taekwondo Championships in Egypt when she was 18, according to Newsweek.
She took up taekwondo after watching her compatriot Rohullah Nikpai win the bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Games.
“I clearly recall watching Nikpai notch up medals for Afghanistan. I was inspired by him and decided to take up the sport and thankfully, my family also supported me,” said Khudadadi, who would have been the first-ever female athlete to represent Afghanistan at the Paralympics, the mag reported.
In a video message from Kabul on Aug. 17, she said: “I urge you all, from the women around the globe, institutions for the protection of women, from all government organizations, to not let the rights of a female citizen of Afghanistan in the Paralympic movement to be taken away so easily.”
She added: “I request from you all that I am an Afghan woman and as a representative of Afghan women ask for you to help me.
“The fact that we ourselves have lifted ourselves from this situation, that we have achieved so much, it cannot be taken lightly. I have suffered a lot, I don’t want my struggle to be in vain and without any results. Help me,” Khudadadi said.
Rasouli, who lost his left arm in a mine explosion, would have been making his Paralympic debut in Tokyo.
He told the Paralympics website that it was “a dream” to be participating in the Tokyo Games and that he wanted to win a medal for his country.
With Post Wires
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