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Afghan turmoil leaves Paralympic athletes unable to compete

/ 11:11 PM August 16, 2021
Tokyo Games

An Olympic Rings banner (C) is unfurled next to one for the upcoming Paralympic Games (bottom) at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo in August 9, 2021, the morning after the closing ceremony for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP)

Afghanistan’s Paralympic team will not participate in the Games in Tokyo next week because they are trapped in the country, the International Paralympic Committee said Monday.

The Taliban have in recent days capped a military victory that saw them bring a swift end to the 20-year war in the country.

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Just two Para athletes from Afghanistan were scheduled to compete in the Games — taekwondo athletes Zakia Khudadadi and Hossain Rasouli.

Khudadadi, 23, was to be the first woman ever to represent Afghanistan at the Paralympics.

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But the IPC confirmed Monday that with the Taliban takeover, the two athletes would no longer be able to travel to Japan.

“Regrettably NPC (National Paralympic Committee) Afghanistan will no longer participate in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games,” IPC spokesman Craig Spence said.

“Due to the serious ongoing situation in the country, all airports are closed and there is no way for them to travel to Tokyo.”

There was no word on whether the IPC had been asked to try to assist team members, or was making efforts to do so.

“We hope the team and officials remain safe and well during this difficult time,” Spence said.

Just one week ago, the two athletes were profiled on the IPC’s website, with the country’s chef de mission Arian Sadiqi saying the Games offered a chance to “deliver the message of coexistence for humanity”.

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