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IPC Says Afghan Athletes Will Focus On Tokyo Games, Without Media Access

People walk past the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games logo at a subway station in Tokyo, Japan, on August 29, 2021. REUTERS / Androniki Christodoulou

TOKYO – The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said Sunday that the well-being and mental health of two newly arrived Afghan athletes is its top priority, and the pair will not speak to the media during the Paralympic Games.

Zakai Khudadadi and Hossain Rasouli arrived in Tokyo on Saturday to compete in the 2020 Paralympic Games after Khudadadi made a video asking for help getting out of Kabul after the Taliban came to power.

The two athletes met with IPC President Andrew Parsons and other officials upon arrival in the village, IPC Communications Director Craig Spence said at a news conference.

“The meeting was extremely emotional, there were many tears from everyone in the room. It was extraordinary, it really was an extraordinary reunion, ”Spence said.

Khudadadi and Rasouli had expressed their wish not to speak to the media and this would be respected.

“It’s about these athletes fulfilling their dream of being able to attend the Paralympics,” Spence said.

“And because human life is the most important thing, and the well-being and mental health of the athletes is our top priority, the athletes will not do anything during these Games.”

Khudadadi, a Taekwondo athlete and track athlete Rasouli were evacuated from the Afghan capital a week ago and landed in Tokyo on a flight from Paris.

The couple were due to arrive in Tokyo on August 17, but were unable to leave Afghanistan after thousands of people rushed to the Kabul airport in an attempt to flee the country.

Paralympic officials had initially said that Afghan athletes would not be able to attend the Games, which began on August 24, and promised to help them participate in the next Games in 2024 in Paris.

Furthermore, the World Taekwondo Association praised the efforts of the IPC and other parties involved to ensure that the two athletes could participate in the Games.

“Zakia and Hossain’s determination to overcome adversity is an inspiration to all of us,” World Taekwondo President Chungwon Choue said in a statement.

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