Two athletes from Afghanistan have arrived in Tokyo in order to compete in the 2020 Paralympic Games, after being evacuated from their country which is currently controlled by the Taliban.
The two are female para-taekwondo athlete Zakia Khudadadi and male track athlete Hossain Rasouli, with the pair leaving Afghanistan a week ago, arriving on Saturday August 29, after a flight from Paris, Paralympic officials have stated.
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) stated that Khudadadi and Rasouli have both started living in the athletes’ village and are preparing for their respective competitions.
IPC President Andrew Parsons said that “Zakia and Hossain are now in Tokyo to fulfil their dreams, sending out a strong message of hope to many others around the world”.
“The meeting was extremely emotional. There were lots of tears from everyone in the room. It really was a remarkable meeting,” IPC spokesman Craig Spence said during a press briefing.
Earlier on in the month, the IPC had said that there was no safe way to bring the pair to Japan for the Paralympics.
However, several governments and organisations took part in what the IPC deemed a ‘major global operation’ in order to help the athletes arrive in Tokyo, with them wanting to take part in the major sporting event.
Arian Sadiqi, the Afghan team’s chef de mission, thanked everyone for the support.
“I strongly believe that, through the Paralympic Movement and the Paralympic Games, we all can deliver the positive message that peaceful co-existence is best for humanity,” Sadiqi claimed.
He added that “We should keep and cherish peace because quarrels and negative feeling only destroy humankind”.
In order to protect the two athletes’ mental health and welfare, the IPC also stated that no media will be allowed to meet them during the games.
As a way of showcasing solidarity with the athletes and people of Afghanistan, the country’s flag was carried by a volunteer during the games’ opening ceremony.
Zakia will become Afghanistan’s first female athlete to compete in the Paralympics since 2004 when she competes on Thursday September 2, while Hossain will compete August 31.
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