Afghan Olympians Receive Heroes’ Welcome
Kabul. Team Afghanistan’s athletes were given a heroes’ welcome Tuesday by fans and officials at the capital’s airport on their return from the Olympic Games.
Senior government officials and hundreds of Afghan fans were at Kabul airport to welcome home the taekwondo bronze medal winner Rohullah Nikpa and five other athletes, including female sprinter Tahmina Kohistani.
Members of the Afghan parliament, the British ambassador to Afghanistan, sports officials and hundreds of Afghans attended a ceremony at Kabul stadium to mark the medal won by Nikpa and the participation of the other athletes at the London Games.
“This is a victory day for all of us. Our heroes are home, bringing us pride and a medal, to the houses of each of you,” General Zahir Aghbar, the chairman of the Afghan Olympic Committee, said.
Aghbar had led the 29 member team to the London Olympics.
Kohistani ran the women’s 100 meters, while Massoud Azizi was in the men’s 100 meters, becoming the first Afghan athlete to compete in three consecutive Olympics.
Ajmal Faisal participated in the flyweight category in boxing and Ajmal Faizzadah fought in the 66 kilogram category in judo.
Nikpa’s bronze came in the 58 kilogram category in taekwondo, repeating his bronze won at the 2008 Beijing Olympic.
His team-mate Neswar Ahmad Bahawi lost one game short of bronze in the 80kg category. He was injured after his first game but still continue into the second round.
Sport officials and fans have criticized the Kabul administration for not doing enough to develop sport, which has been hit by more than three decades of war.
“But we have raised Afghanistan’s flag in London. This is a big achievement, my dear fellow countrymen,” Aghbar said.
“Bronze is like gold for us.” The team rode from airport to the Ghazi Stadium along with the officials and fans in cars and horses. Supporters carried Afghanistan’s flag and photos of Nikpa and other athletes.
Ghazi Stadium was notorious during the Taliban regime, between 1996 and 2001, for being a stage for public executions. All forms of sports were banned during that time.
“I came here early in the morning to visit and to pay honour to my heroes who represented our nation in London,” an Afghan fan told dpa, saying he arrived at the airport at 4 a.m.
“It is our duty to support them. Nikpa has brought a medal for each us without any support from the government. We are sport loving nation not a war loving people.”