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Tokyo Paralympic opening ceremony to include Afghanistan flag

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mainichi– The Tokyo Paralympics’ opening ceremony will include the flag of Afghanistan as a “sign of solidarity” since athletes from the country will not be able to compete against their wishes, a top official said Monday.

International Paralympic Committee chief Andrew Parsons told a press conference that “it’s important to highlight” that having the flag at the ceremony on Tuesday night will also be a message of “peace” to the rest of the world, given that Afghan athletes are unable to compete after the Taliban seized control of the country.

Parsons said a representative of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees will carry the flag into the National Stadium during the opening event.

Two athletes from Afghanistan, female para-taekwondo athlete Zakia Khudadadi and male track athlete Hossain Rasouli, were expected to compete at the Paralympics, involving up to about 4,400 participants from roughly 160 countries and regions.

Khudadadi, who was poised to become Afghanistan’s first female Paralympic athlete, released a video last week pleading for help in getting to Tokyo from Kabul.

Their dreams were destroyed after the Taliban, on Aug. 15, regained power in Afghanistan, about 20 years after being ousted by U.S.-led forces.

The Paralympics will run through Sept. 5 amid the coronavirus pandemic following a one-year postponement.