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Uncertainty looms over Afghanistan’s participation in 2024 Paris Olympics

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KABUL: Uncertainty looms over Afghanistan’s participation in the 2024 Paris Olympics as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) demands “significant progress” in promoting women’s involvement in sports under the Taliban-led government.

James MacLeod, director of Olympic Solidarity and head of National Olympic Committee (NOC) relations, expressed dissatisfaction with Afghanistan’s insufficient efforts to enhance accessibility and inclusivity in sports. The IOC has raised concerns about the country’s restrictions on sporting activities.

During their meetings in Lausanne, Switzerland, the IOC Executive Board addressed the situation in Afghanistan. In April, Alhaj Maulvi Abdul Wadud Haqqani was appointed as the new General Directorate of Physical Education and Sports and acting leader of the Afghan NOC, replacing Nazar Mohammad Mutamaen. MacLeod disclosed that the IOC leadership recently held an online call with Haqqani, emphasizing the need for Afghanistan to fulfill certain conditions.

These conditions include ensuring safe and inclusive access to sports for women and young girls, as well as addressing the authorities’ restrictions that hinder their participation. While Haqqani assured that work was being done in this regard, the IOC expressed its dissatisfaction with the progress made in Afghanistan, especially with only a little over a year remaining until the Paris Olympic Games.

MacLeod stated, “The IOC Executive Board took note of the latest discussions with the Afghan NOC and the Afghan director of physical education and sport in the past few months to address the issue of ensuring the safe and inclusive access to sport for women and young girls in Afghanistan. The IOC Executive Board was made aware of recent developments, in particular, the level of primary schools allowing young girls to practice sport as a first step but reiterated that this remains insufficient.”

He further emphasized that the IOC Executive Board remains extremely concerned about the continued restrictions on women and young girls in Afghanistan, which contradict the Olympic values of non-discrimination, inclusion, and respect. Consequently, the board urged the Afghan NOC and the director of physical education and sport to intensify their efforts, seeking significant progress and tangible outcomes in the near future, with full support from the country’s highest authorities.

The IOC Executive Board plans to review the situation in Afghanistan in October, and MacLeod stressed that they “reserve the right to take any further measures to protect women and young girls’ access to sport.”

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