The two athletes from Afghanistan made an “extremely emotional” arrival at the Paralympic Village in Tokyo, the Games chiefs said Sunday, after a top-secret flight from Paris following their evacuation from Kabul.
Zakia Khudadadi and Hossain Rasouli arrived in Japan ready to compete in the Games, after leaving Taliban-controlled Afghanistan last weekend in a “major global operation.”
“Both athletes are here in Tokyo to fulfill their dreams, sending a very strong message of hope to many others around the world,” said International Paralympic Committee spokesman Craig Spence.
Khudadadi and Rasouli were greeted at the athletes’ village on Saturday evening by IPC Chief Andrew Parsons and IPC Athletes Council President Chelsey Gotell, as well as Afghan team chief of mission Arian. Sadiqi.
“As you can imagine, the reunion was extremely emotional,” Spence said.
“There were many tears from everyone in the room. It really was an extraordinary reunion. “
The couple spent a week in Paris at a French sports ministry training center after their evacuation from Kabul.
Sprinter Rasouli was scheduled to compete in the men’s 100 meters in T47, but was too late for Saturday’s heats.
Instead, she will enter the T47 long jump final on Tuesday, while Khudadadi will compete in the women’s K44 -49kg taekwondo category on Thursday.
Spence said that the mental health and well-being of athletes was the IPC’s “top priority.”
“Every day we mainly check their mental health, because as you can imagine, the situation they have been through in the last few days is serious,” he said.
Their arrival comes after Afghanistan’s rapid fall to the Taliban earlier this month left them among the tens of thousands trapped and unable to leave the country.
At Tuesday’s opening ceremony, the Afghan flag was presented symbolically, carried by a volunteer.
Spence said the two athletes would not speak to reporters while at the Games.
He said organizers wanted to avoid “a selfie festival” with other athletes taking pictures in town, but stressed that the couple would be allowed to mingle.
“We’re not saying ‘you shouldn’t stay in your apartments and not go out,'” he said.
“We’re saying, once you’ve gone through your three-day quarantine, you must go through this experience of being in the ‘athlete village.’
The Tokyo Paralympic Games are being held under strict coronavirus rules and largely behind closed doors, after a year-long delay due to the pandemic.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban have promised a softer type of government compared to their first term in power between 1996 and 2001.
But many Afghans fear a repeat of their brutal interpretation of Islamic law.
Get the latest sports news straight to your inbox
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS To access The Philippine Daily Inquirer and more than 70 other titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download from 4am and share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.
For comments, complaints or inquiries, Contact Us.