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Olympic dreams: from London to Kabul

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Afghanistan
Olympic Rings on Tower Bridge, London
Olympic Rings on Tower Bridge, London

I have just returned to Kabul following a visit home to London to see my family during the Olympics.

It is obviously quite a contrast between the shiny capital of "Team GB" and dusty Kabul which is still rebuilding itself following thirty years of conflict. There are similarities, however, for example in the ambition and patriotism in both cities.

When Ruhollah Nikpai, a former refugee from the marginalised Hazara ethnic group, won a bronze medal in Taekwondo, the nation was united in its exhilaration and pride. Four years ago, in the Beijing Olympics, he won Afghanistan's first ever Olympic medal, also a Taekwondo bronze. Afghans across the country followed his fortunes, with the young generation excited about their hero - one blogger declared: "You didn't win a Bronze but our HEARTS".

National stadium, Kabul
National stadium, Kabul

Thousands of jubilant fans piled into Ghazni Stadium - Afghanistan's national stadium, to welcome Nikpai home. A little over a decade ago, the stadium had been a feared place of execution by the Taliban. Now it was a symbol of a country that wants to get back to normality after years of conflict.

Another Afghan Olympic athlete also made the headlines - Tahmina Kohestani, the only female representative in London. The female sprinter came last in the 100m heats, but her participation was a powerful statement for women's rights and having overcome fierce opposition from conservative forces. She proudly said "What I have done is worth more than a medal for me and my country,".. And she promised to aim for the next Olympic games in Rio!

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  1. Comment by David Bicknell posted on

    I am a journalist writing about technology in the public sector who was working as an Olympic Games Maker volunteer in the Athletes' Village, working on Village Life, the newspaper we put together for those living and working in the Village.

    I chatted with Tahmina outside the Village Services Centre and a nicer, more eloquent spokeswoman for her country, for the benefits of the Games, and for women athletes in Afghanistan you couldn't hope to meet. I think our headline for the piece about her was Greater than Gold - and it was absolutely true. Meeting her and writing up her story was one of the highlights of working on Village Life for me.

  2. Comment by Elizabeth Sadler posted on

    Wonderful news....all so positive....and a National Stadium being properly used,and a great Nation seeking to get back to normality. My heart genuinely feels sad for the sport,music ,theatre,cinema,computers,socialising between the sexes,parties. What a miserable life when all you can do is kill,and make it a public spectacle. Thrilled the the country is being transformed.

  3. Comment by Christa posted on

    Hi Elizabeth, yes it is indeed so nice to have good news coming out of Afghanistan.
    Hi David, it must have been amazing meeting Tahmina!

  4. Comment by Jack posted on

    What an amazing story about the Ghazni stadium, I never realised what used to happen there. I suppose it is a good sign of progress that the stadium is now used for sport, rather than executions.

    A seemingly small step in the big picture, but I would imagine a lot of these small steps play a big part in the overall aim of a free country.