Afghanistan’s two para-athletes, who were forced to pull out of the Tokyo Paralympics because of Taliban’s takeover of their country, have been safely evacuated, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said but declined to comment on their whereabouts. The two taekwondo athletes, Zakia Khudadadi and Hossain Rasouli, were due to compete at the Tokyo Paralympics but were forced out of the Games after the Taliban’s takeover trapped them in their own country.
When asked about the athletes and the possibility they will compete at the Games, IPC spokesman Craig Spence said, “The situation hasn’t changed. We displayed the flag in the Opening Ceremony as a sign of solidarity. The two athletes are outside of Afghanistan now, they’ve been evacuated. We know where they are,” he added at the daily press briefing.
The Afghan athletes were forced to withdraw from the Games as all flights out of capital Kabul got cancelled after the Taliban seized control of the country. Spence added, “Our priority at the moment is not to focus on sport, it’s their health and wellbeing, and we’re working with relevant people to ensure that. What’s important is they’re safe, and they are.”
Before the Games began, the IPC confirmed that the Afghan athletes would not be able to compete in Tokyo. The Afghan flag, however, featured during Tuesday’s opening ceremony as the IPC stood by the country.
IPC chief Andrew Parsons had said on Monday the Tokyo Paralympics opening ceremony would feature the flag of Afghanistan as a ‘sign of solidarity’.