2 Evacuees Reach Tokyo to Compete in Paralympics

International effort gets athletes safely out of Kabul, to Paris, then to the Paralympic Village
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 28, 2021 4:10 PM CDT
2 Evacuees Reach Tokyo to Compete in Paralympics
A flag bearer carries the Afghanistan flag into the stadium during the Opening Ceremony for the 2020 Paralympics at the National Stadium in Tokyo on Tuesday.   (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)

An international, multi-organization effort has delivered two Kabul evacuees to Tokyo, by way of Paris, in time to compete in the 2020 Paralympics. Zakia Khudadadi and Hossain Rasouli have safely arrived in Paralympic Village, CNN reports. The Afghanistan Paralympic Committee had said they wouldn't be able to go to Tokyo because of the Taliban takeover of their country. On Saturday, the International Paralympic Committee said that news "broke the hearts of all involved in the Paralympic Movement and left both athletes devastated." And it sparked a "major global operation," committee President Andrew Parsons said in a statement.

In a video, Khudadadi had asked for help reaching Tokyo so she could represent Afghanistan at the Games, which she said would fulfill her dream, per the AP. A list of nations and organizations began working on getting the two out of Afghanistan, which happened last weekend. The athletes spent the past week in Paris, where they were able to train. The two tested negative for the coronavirus before leaving Paris and upon arrival in Tokyo. Parsons' statement suggested the scope of the operation, as he thanked "several Governments, the Centre for Sport and Human Rights, Human Rights for All, the French Paralympic Committee, the British Paralympic Association, World Taekwondo."

Khudadadi will compete in taekwondo on Thursday, per the Guardian, becoming the first woman from Afghanistan to particpate in the Paralympics since 2004. Rasouli will compete Friday in heats for a 400-meter T47 event; he had been scheduled for a 100-meter event this weekend. Afghanistan's flag was carried in the Opening Ceremony on Tuesday. "Like all the athletes here at Tokyo 2020, we never gave up hope," Parsons' statement said, which is why Afghanistan was represented Tuesday. The presence of Khudadadi and Rasouli at the Games, Parsons said, "shows the remarkable power of sport to bring people together in peace." (More Paralympics stories.)

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