Afghan flag to be carried by volunteer at Paralympic opening ceremony
Written by tokyoclub on August 24, 2021
The Afghanistan flag will be carried by a volunteer at Tuesday’s opening ceremony of the Tokyo Paralympics with athletes from the country unable to take part due to the situation in their homeland, the International Paralympic Committee said.
The IPC had hoped that 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, a gesture to show “solidarity” with the absent Afghan athletes and others in the Central Asian country.
Afghanistan’s delegation is pictured during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics at the National Stadium on July 23, 2021, in Tokyo. (Kyodo)
IPC spokesman Craig Spence told a press conference hours before the ceremony that the committee has received a response from the U.N. agency saying it wants a volunteer carry the flag instead, as it is a “neutral organization.”
The Afghan athletes are unable to compete after the Taliban regained control of the country earlier this month. The IPC said Thursday there is no safe way to bring the athletes to Japan for the games.
Spence said a record number of 4,403 athletes will take part, adding it is a “remarkable achievement” considering the difficulties posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
The previous record was 4,328 participants at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympics, he said.
The Tokyo Paralympics will open following a one-year postponement due to the pandemic. He said New Zealand will not attend the opening ceremony as part of efforts to protect its team members from COVID-19 infections.
International Paralympic Committee spokesman Craig Spence (R) attends a news conference in Tokyo on Aug. 24, 2021. (Kyodo)