25/07/2012 World Olympic Dreams


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OK, one, two, three, go! Zubair's kite and that view, we can only be


in Kabul. Welcome to World Olympic Dreams from Afghanistan. Coming up


in this programme - the quest of this country's only Olympic


medallist to redefine Afghanistan. You can feel the power just coming


right up through here. It's just amazing. The incredible story of


double amputee Malik hoe Hamed -- Mohammed and the sport that changed


his life. 20 years of rowing, my legs are about that big. Check out


this - fi fingers don't meet. Plus, the athletes -- my fingers don't


meet. Plus, the athletes risking their lives for sport, the Afghan


women's team who play on in the face of death threats. This is


Afghanistan as you've never seen it before. Through the stories of


athletes who want to change how For as long as I can remember, the


very word Afghanistan conjures up images of conflict and warfare, but


I've been really keen to come here and especially to Kabul, to see for


myself if somewhere among all this there might be some sport. And the


most obvious place to start is with one man, who almost single handedly


has transformed the very idea of the Afghan athlete. Taekwondo


fighter, Rohullah Nikpai is without equal in Afghanistan. He is the


only Olympic medallist in the history of this country. His bronze


in the Beijing Olympics was a moment of national celebration, the


like of which Afghanistan has all too few of. I'm on my way to meet


him with my guide in Afghanistan, journalist and broadcaster, Tahir


Qadiry. How big a star is Rohullah Nikpai? He's a really big star and


champion in Afghanistan, because the thing is, the reason is, we


haven't got a lot of champions over the last three decades because of


war and he on the other hand, was the first to bring the Olympic


medal to Afghanistan in our history and it was the first-ever medal and


there is so much publicity on TV. He's doing ads for some of these


telecommunications companies and for safety and sanitary in the


country and the people mob him on the street and everybody knows him,


from children to elders, because he has been so much on TV. It's become


a cliche when Olympic athletes say winning a medal changes their lives,


but it was literally true for Rohullah Nikpai. He had a huge


reception, a new car and this fantastic new apartment from the


prds of Afghanistan no less. President of Afghanistan no less.


Welcome. His quality of life was transformed by Beijing, but for him


the medals he holds dear are worth so much more than the personal


wealth they have brought him. Winning medals is becoming a habit


for him. Last year, in the tae kwon do world championships in Korea he


consolidated his position as one of the best in his sport, with another


bronze medal. Proving he's -- his 2008 Olympic bronze wasn't just a


Nearly four years on from that medal me formance in Beijing and


Rohullah still uses this gym and it's the place where he started out


on the outskirts of Kabul. It's a domestic house that's been


converted and you can see it's not even the correct width for a proper


taekwondo mat. For sure, Rohullah will fight plenty of athletes in


London with better training facilities than these. But from


what I saw his competitors would be foolish to underestimate the man


from Kabul. Force and power. I can feel the power just coming right up


through here and the most worrying thing is you can't even - from the


moment his foot leaves the floor, you can't see it. Thank you. An


Olympic medal is always a turning point for any athlete. It's the


moment when years of hard work in private in places like this, become


a matter of mass pride and of public celebration. That's more


true of Rohullah than many Olympic athletes. For him, the private and


the public are the same thing. He believes that if he fights hard


enough as an individual his country might just be the better for it too.


One of the many remarkable things about Kabul is how normal things


here seem. At times you forget there's a war on. Like anywhere


else, many Afghans have jobs to do, people to meet, lives to live. But


equally, this being Afghanistan, there are reminders of this


country's recent past around every corner. Of all the weird sights,


this place is probably the pinnical. On a windy hill top right in the


middle of the city is almost an Olympic-sized swimming pool. It's a


quarter full and perched on the end is this diving platform. It's been


here for years and the truth is that the Taliban would bring their


victims here, march them up on to the board and either shoot them


there, or from the end of the pool and the bodies would fall into that


water. Hundreds of them apparently. It's really grim. Afghanistan still


has a long way to go before swimming pools represent sport,


rather than conjuring up dark memories. This empty, unused pool


is a depressing sign of that. But there are glimmers of hope too.


Meet the Afghanistan water polo team. The squad made up of farmers,


shopkeepers and soldiers is the brainchild of a US marine who is


hoping they can qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games. It's a tall


order, though. This is what they are up against. This is one of only


about a dozen swimming pools in the whole of Afghanistan. It's outside


though and in winter it's completely unusable and sport


politics being what it is, the swimmers train here. The water polo


players have to find somewhere else. When I catch up with them they're


training in an indoor pool as the guests of a local businessman. It's


a one-off, organised, we think, because we are filming. It's not


going according to plan. A couple of problems. There are no goals


that I can see and a bit of confusion down the other end,


because there's no water poll low ball, so someone has been sent to


buy one and hopefully we'll have some sport to watch in a minute or


two. Eventually a ball, albeit a football, turns up and training can


get under way. As sporting struggles go, it would take a lot


to beat the Afghan water polo team. There is no tradition of aquatic


sports in this land-locked country. Three of the team have been killed


in the war and the plan for a month's training in America is


being blocked because of fears that You can't help feeling it will be


well beyond 2016 before these players have a hope of holding


their own internationally. Even so, Rohullah Nikpai's Olympic medal in


2008 is proof enough to these players that it can be done. In


Afghanistan perhaps more than anywhere else in the world,


sporting dreams survive against overwhelming odds. The emergence of


waterpolo and other fledgling sports here reveals wider truths


about the struggle going on in Afghanistan. As a whole. Something


I'm keen to know more about from Tahir Qadiry. Just tell me what


sport means in Afghanistan at the moment. Well, sport means quite a


lot after the fall of the Taliban. The two great achievements


Afghanistan has, one was the freedom in press and then sport.


You saw an explosion of sports in Afghanistan and athletes coming


from the middle of nowhere really, like the cricket for example.


That's a great example. They came out of the ashes and then they


became like a global phenomenon. These athletes with very little


facilities, they try to express themselves and express their


identities through a different way. And to introduce a new image from


Afghanistan, other than the usual one, which is always associated


with war and drugs. Redefining what it means to be not just an Afghan,


but an Afghan athlete is also what is driving 18 -year-old Malik


Mohammed. I lost my legs by a landmine. The bomb was from the


Russian people. It was a minefield. I lost both of my legs and there


were two bombs. I came down and another one went off. Two in a row?


Yes. Those two bombs planted before he was even born changed Malik's


life unmathably. After injury and horror, came the realisation that


he was now part of a kind of underclass. In Afghanistan the


disabled are all too often regarded as invisible, or even worthless.


have one million disabled or paralysed like me in Afghanistan.


They are very poor families. They cannot do work or do anything in


Kabul city or wherever they are, so this is a big problem between


disabled and not. He was flown to the US for treatment. Several years


not just of American medical care, but also of education changed his


life again. He met former Presidents, made new friends and


discovered sport. He returned to Kabul not just as a track athlete,


but also as a swimmer, with a sense of self-worth, which might


otherwise have alluded him. What would your life be like without


sport? If I didn't do sport I would be a simple person and I would stay


at home and do nothing and watch only TV, so now I'm a sportsmen and


people call me an athlete and hero, It's amazing what sport can do for


people in Afghanistan in the days and months after Malik lost his


legs, the chances were he was going to become almost a pariah in Afghan


society. Now he's a hero for the whole country. This summer in


London, Malik hopes to represent Afghanistan in the 2012 Paralympic


Games. He'll be banishing some personal demons for sure. But if he


can change what it means to have a disability here, then perhaps the


biggest impact from his efforts in London will be felt back at home.


There are so many sporting stories to be told in Afghanistan. The lid


has been lifted here. Afghans are throwing themselves into all kinds


of sports. Not all the trends here are new though. There is one craze


in particular which, like cricket, went on during the Taliban but is


now booming like never before. Tell me about bodybuilding? Why is


that such a big sport in Afghanistan? Well, maybe you are


not to right person because I haven't got good muscles, but I


will answer you. You know, bodybuilding after the fall of the


Taliban, it's one of the favourite sports in Afghanistan like, I mean,


every Afghan, especially the youngsters you speak to, they go to


the gym. It's not a new thing? This hasn't happened in the last two or


three years, it's been generations? Yes, it's been going on for years


and years, even during the Taliban. They were asked to wear pants and


cover your legs and also some parts of your chest as well. But after


the Taliban, now they can show each part of the body. Let me tell you


one thing. When you go and propose a girl, one of the criterias is


having a good body in Afghanistan so you need to have a good muscle


to propose a good girl. To get a good woman? Xabgtsly.


-- exactly. If that's true, then these guys should have no trouble


This is lunch time in Kabul in one of many weightlifting gyms and


these bodybuilders have put on a show specifically for us, it has to


be said. I've been in plenty of gyms in my life, but I've never


seen anything like this. This gym is brand-new. It brings


the number in Kabul alone to around 200. The sport, if you can call it


that, isn't just about spending hours in gyms though.


All of these bodybuilders regularly compete in contests that take place


right across the country, culminating every year in the Mr


Afghanistan competition. Contestants are scored on different


parts of the body so knowing how to flex on demand is crucial.


So check this out, 20 years of rowing, my legs are, oh, about that


big. Check out this. Bicep. My fingers don't meet! Jabar Hotak


could have been the next Rohullah Nikpai. His first sport was tae


kwon do. Before too long, bodybuilding became his obsession


though. It's a passion which climaxed with him being crowned


many Afghanistan in 2009. Now, as a trainer, he's uniquely placed to


Where there are prizes, of course there is cheating.


Notably steroids. These bodybuilders all say they


rely on weight lifting alone to build up their muscle, but they


know plenty of people here willing to turn to chemicals to gain an


advantage. So why is this place called the


Bush Bazaar? Well, after the former President of the United States...


Tahir brought me to a market where steroids are for sale. When the


Taliban fell from power, people started setting up markets like


this one because most of you can find most of the American stuff


here where the soldiers don't consume them, then they bring them


here and preem just try to buy. we have obviously seen the


bodybuilders within they are looking for the supplements or


steroids, is this the right place to come? You have come to the right


place. Here you can get everything! Steroids, weight gainer. Is this


something people are worried about? The thing is, there is not so much


knowledge about this, not so much publicity. The recent report I


heard was a friend who died of using too much steroids, so that


was like a Big Bang, like that was a warning for all people. Doping is


certainly a very worrying part of this sport. Testing is still only


sporadic and while there remains a real chance of not being caught,


plenty of bodybuilders will continue to use.


There is more freedom than ever in sport in Afghanistan, but there are


many who'd argue in the world of bodybuilding at least, freedom to


participate and freedom to abuse should not be confused.


You are never too far from signs of conflict in Kabul. This was the gym


where we were just filming those bodybuilders and right next door,


that tall building is where the Taliban launched an attack from a


few months ago. That was on to the American Embassy a couple of blocks


that way. You can still see the bullet holes in the top of that


building where the Americans fired back.


Kabul is one of the most dangerous cities in the world. As a result,


moving around, you come across checkpoints every few hundred


metres. Stop check. Understandably, they


don't like being filmed. In Kabul, you're constantly aware


how dangerous things can be here. But equally, life in a high


security world can also become very normal very quickly.


We have been here two or three days, and you just get used to it. It's


worrying how you get used to it. You think to begin with, it's


completely a culture shock and now it's just normal. Armed guard, guy


comes to the window, say what you are doing, and then you can carry


on with life. Even though my main focus in


Afghanistan has been sport, you're constantly hit with the evidence of


the political side of this country's recent past.


This is the Ghazi Stadium. If you have seen pictures of this before,


they're unlikely to have been pleasant ones. It's here the


Taliban used to bring people in to execute them in front of the crowds


and even stone women to death. They stoned them to death out on


the pitch. Nowadays, there's progress, a lovely new Astro Turf


pitch and it's the hub of a whole sports complex which aims at


improving Afghan team sports. Among them, the Afghanistan women's


football team. Women's sport wasn't just


restricted under the Taliban, it was come plaitly banned.


The contrast between the present day and a mere 11 years ago is at


its starkest here. As recently as 2001, any of these


women could have been executed for what we are filming them doing


today. That's not to say that this is


uncontroversial even now. The role of women in Afghanistan is a battle


that is far from settled. Many of the players here have had


death threats. Each of the women on this pitch has their own story of


sacrifice to tell for the love of This is where progress in sport is


at its most delicate. Women's sport happens in Afghanistan, you could


say despite public attitudes, not because of them.


Even so, Sajir and the rest of her team-mates remain committed. The


team is beginning to play internationals overseas and home


matches have drawn surprising What happens with the women's


football team more than any of the other athletes I've encountered


will be a barometer of the biggest story here in Afghanistan.


In five or ten years' time, this team may well in longer exist, or


it may be if Sajia has anything to do with it, the Afghan women's


football team has gone from To round off our trip, you couldn't


get a more Afghan backdrop than the presidential palace which was


ruined in the fighting in the Civil War. But you never know with


Afghanistan. You could come back in six months' time and that could be


completely razed to the ground or reinvented as a Government building


or even some sort of luxury hotel, you just don't know. And when I


think back to the few days, it's been absolutely amazing to get


under the skin of the place and to really witness the truth about


Afghan sports. You think of Malik and Rahullah who're absolutely at


the cutting edge, they're an inspiration to the whole nation and


to generations of people coming up behind them and realising that it's


possible to go to the Olympics or Paralympics and win medals. Then


you think of the more rough and ready reality of Afghan sport, the


cricket that goes on in the streets and in the towns and then, you know,


the chaos of the Afghan Water Polo team. The only sign-off I think is


that there can be no definitives. You can't look at the country or


Kabul as a city or the political situation or indeed Afghan sport


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