Two Afghan athletes make it to Tokyo for the Paralympics

Et was a political signal when the Afghan flag was carried into the stadium at the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games in Tokyo last week, although the country had previously canceled its participation for logistical reasons. But it was also a signal that the door was open for the two Afghan athletes who wanted to take part in the Paralympic Games despite the turmoil in Kabul. At the weekend Zakia Khudadadi and Hossain Rasouli made it and moved into the Paralympic Village in Tokyo. You came from Paris.

Patrick Welter

Correspondent for business and politics in Japan, based in Tokyo.

There was always a small chance that the two could still take part in the games, said the President of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), Andrew Parsons, in a written statement. “We never gave up hope.”

According to the IPC, governments and organizations had worked behind the scenes to get the two athletes out of the turmoil in Afghanistan. You flew from Kabul to Paris last weekend and were able to train there in a high-performance sports center run by the French government. The two will then reach Japan on Saturday evening, local time.

The 22-year-old Zakia Khudadadi is only the second Afghan female athlete to compete in the Paralympic Games. The last time an Afghan competed in the 2004 Games in Athens was 17 years ago. Khudadadi will start on Thursday in Taekwondo in the 49 kilogram category. As a result of the difficult journey, the 26-year-old Hossain Rasouli has already missed the 100-meter run in his class. He now wants to try his luck in the elimination runs over 400 meters.

No interviews on request

The IPC speaks of a major global action in which several governments and international organizations have been involved. The sports organization is silent about details. A spokesman said on Sunday that there was constant contact with the two athletes. Both athletes have repeatedly expressed their desire to take part in the games.

At the request of the two athletes, they would not give any interviews in the coming days and journalists would not be available to journalists immediately after the competitions, said the IPC spokesman. Contrary to normal practice, the sports association issued an exemption for this. The spokesman indicated that several governments had agreed to allow Khudadadi and Rasouli to stay safely after the Games. It would be up to the two athletes to decide where to go after the Paralympic Games.

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