By Vatican News Staff reporter
Afghan Taekwondo athlete Zakia Khudadadi, makes a direct plea to camera for help to leave the chaos of Kabul in order to fulfill her dream of becoming the country’s first female competitor at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
Zakia’s hopes were dashed on Monday when the Afghanistan Paralympic Committee announced that two Afghan athletes would not be able to attend the Games that get underway on August 24, as a result of the country's ongoing turmoil.
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) president Andrew Parsons told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday that the video was “really sad” to watch and broke his heart.
"There are no commercial flights. We all have seen the images from the airport in Kabul. It became clear to us right from the beginning that there will be no safe way to try to bring these athletes to Tokyo,” he said.
Parsons added that the Paralympic Committee would work with the Afghan team to support her competing again in the future, but now it was "too soon" to discuss plans.
Both Zakia and track athlete Hossain Rasouli had been scheduled to arrive in Tokyo on Aug. 17.
"It's something that goes way, way, way, way bigger than sports,” said the Paralympic Committee president. And we are first concerned in Afghanistan as a nation and with the human beings, especially the female of that nation. I think first, the nation needs to define its own destiny."
The 2020 Paralympics
These Games will see athletes competing in 540 events over 22 sports. The 2020 Summer Paralympics will also see the introduction of badminton and taekwondo, replacing sailing and 7-a-side football.
COVID-19 safety measures
The Tokyo Paralympics will take place mainly behind closed doors, due to the COVID-19 safety measures in place in the Japanese capital.
There were 18 new infections confirmed on Wednesday among Paralympic participants, including six travelling from abroad.
The city of Tokyo announced 4,377 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, after a record 5,773 on Friday.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach will visit Japan to attend the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games opening ceremony,