Kabul, AFGHANISTAN – Watching the Beijing Olympics at home in Afghanistan, my countrymen and I got a wonderful gift from the Games: pride.
We watched as four Afghan athletes, including one woman, took part in the international competition, representing our homeland, and brought home our first medal ever in the history of the Games.
It wasn’t easy.
Considering the awful condition of sports facilities inside Afghanistan, we were never expecting any medal from these Olympics.
But Rohullah Nikpai’s triumphant Bronze medal in the taekwondo competition inspired the whole Afghan nation.
Nikpa defeated three western European competitors – Germany, Great Britain and Spain – to claim his medal.
I was with my cousins watching the Games on television, and when it was time for Nikpai’s competition, we couldn’t take our eyes away.
When he won, it was very emotional for us. We congratulated each other, knowing how special this medal was to us and for our country.
The fact that we haven’t won medals in the past hasn’t been due to lack of talent, but because of the continued war and upheavals inside our country.
The upheaval has been so much that usually we missed taking part in the Olympics.
But this year was different.
Having our country participate in the Beijing Games lifted the spirits of the Afghan people.
Because we have lived with devastating conflicts from the past 30 years due to our geopolitical location and the people of Afghanistan have suffered a lot, the single achievement of taking part in the Olympics and hearing our national anthem played alongside all the other nations of the world is worth a lot to us.
Even my friends and other Afghans who are living outside the country were excitedly watching the starting ceremony of the Games, proudly watching to see the Afghan athletes enter with our flag.
The Olympics enabled us to come out as one nation, under one flag, with one national anthem, united together on the international platform.
We saw our President, Hamid Karzai, take his place among the other heads of state in Beijing. He may have looked like any other of the many national figures, but he was the first ever Afghan leader to attend the Olympics and support the athletes.
Later, we learned through the state television that Karzai congratulated Nikpa on the telephone while in Beijing and promised him a house as a reward for his achievement. Several other private businesses honored him with major rewards of cash, a vehicle and more.
The Olympics brings nations from around the world for sporting competitions, but indeed it also strengthens the unity among the people from different nations.
The symbol of the Olympics represents the interconnection of the people of the world. The five rings intertwined with each other stands for the connections between the inhabitants of the five continents, with the Americas counting as one continent.
Each ring is colored with one of the special five colors of black, red, blue, green and yellow in a white field, with the colors containing at least one color of each nation’s flag.
I’m happy that my own country finally holds a piece of it.
Edrees Kakar is a Senior Reporter for Youth Journalism International.