Flag-wearers to replace flag-bearers for next month’s Kabul games
KABUL — Officials for next month’s Summer Games being held in Kabul have announced that they will be doing away with flag-bearers for their opening and closing ceremonies and will instead replace them with “flag-wearers”. Where, traditionally, a country’s team will be led into the stadium by someone carrying that country’s flag, each team in Kabul will be led in by a person wearing the country’s flag. Officials have said the flags will be incorporated into the designs of burkas to be worn by the flag wearers. The burka is a large, sack-like garment worn by many women in Afghanistan that covers them completely and possesses a small mesh grill over the eyes through which they can see.
The officials gave the example of the Afghan flag to show how this would be done; the Afghan flag burka would comprise black, red, and green vertical stripes emblazoned with the white national emblem in the centre, replicating the Afghan flag. The chairman of the organising committee explained that “burkas were chosen because they cover the wearer fully, meaning the focus would be on the country’s flag and not on who was carrying it. Furthermore, hosting these games is an opportunity to showcase Afghan culture and the burka, worn by many pious women, is an important part of it. The burka’s prominent inclusion in these games may encourage more of the younger generation to wear it and continue an Afghan tradition.” It has not yet been stated whether the flags will be worn by a female athlete from that country or by Afghan women.
The change has been generally well received amongst athletes attending the games who have welcomed it as something novel and unique. Some male athletes have even begun suggesting who they would like to see wearing their country’s burka (female athletes have been less willing to comment on the change). The support has not been universal, however, with many women’s and human rights organisations, along with some outspoken female athletes, criticising the use of women wearing flag burkas as objectifying women and highlighting the poor state of women’s rights in Afghanistan in general. Meanwhile, some ultra-conservative Afghan organisations have criticised the change because it will result in women leading men, which they do not consider appropriate. They do, nonetheless, welcome the use of the burka and have called for it to be extended to all women participating in the games. — AFGHAN NEWS AGENCY