NEWS

Afghanistan’s Olympic team to train in Greece

Afghanistan’s Olympic team will spend two months on the Greek resort island of Lesvos training for the August 13-29 Games, the government said yesterday. The 22-member Olympic and Paralympic team accepted an offer made by a Greek aid group to train in May and June on the island near the Turkish coast, the Aegean Ministry said. «We have some of the best training facilities in Greece on the island and we will provide them with the best of Greek hospitality,» Aegean Ministry official Anastasia Spiridaki told AP. The offer was made by the Emergency Rescue Unit, a non-governmental organization that has provided the team with medical services in Kabul. Afghanistan’s Ariana airlines will fly the team to Istanbul, Turkey, and the Greek government will cover the rest of the trip along with lodging. «We thought it would be good for us to host the team here and they agreed,» Zoe Livaditou, the rescue unit’s Afghanistan coordinator said. The Afghan team has been training in Iran. Last month, Greece donated uniforms and training equipment to the Afghans. Lesvos is the home of defending Olympic 200-meter champion Costas Kenteris and the training site for a number of Greek athletics talents, including Olympic hopefuls. The island also includes a reception center for illegal immigrants trying to enter Greece. The Afghan Olympic team is made up of 10 athletes, including two men competing in Greco-Roman wrestling, five men competing in track events and three women runners. One is Lima Azimi, the first woman from Afghanistan ever to race at a World Athletics Championship. The 22-year-old raced in the 100 meters last August in France. The Paralympic team is made up of eight people and both squads will be escorted by three coaches and an Afghan Olympic team official. Afghanistan last sent a team to the Olympics in 1996, when 36 athletes traveled to Atlanta. Afghanistan was suspended from the International Olympic Committee in 1999 due to the Taliban’s ban on participation of women athletes.