The flag of Afghanistan was used as a symbol of “solidarity and peace” as the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games kicked off on Tuesday night in Japan.
The 16th Summer Paralympics, delayed by a year due to the pandemic will take place amid Japan’s worst outbreak of Covid-19, with spectators banned from the majority of events and Tokyo and surrounding prefectures under a state of emergency due to surging case numbers.
The Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, President of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Andrew Parsons ahead of the opening said Afghanistan’s flag would be incorporated into the opening ceremony parade despite Afghan athletes pulling out of the Games due to flights being canceled from the country.
Kabul’s airport has been the focus of the world’s attention this week after the Taliban seized the capital, with thousands of people trying to flee the new regime.
“We will include the Afghanistan flag in the ceremony in a sign of solidarity and we have invited the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees representative here to act as the flagbearer,” Parsons told reporters.
“It is important to highlight that as it is a message of solidarity and peace that we send to the world,” he added.
“We would like to have them here, unfortunately it is not possible, but they will be here in spirit.”
The Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan is seen as a threat to the nation’s sporting ambitions, with sportswomen afraid they’ll be punished for trying to compete.