25/07/2012 World Olympic Dreams


25/07/2012

Matthew Pinsent is in Kabul, Afghanistan for a special episode. He meets hopefuls including the country's only Olympic medal winner, taekwondo fighter Rohullah Nikpai.


Similar Content

Browse content similar to 25/07/2012. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!

Transcript


LineFromTo

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

:00:58.:01:08.
:01:08.:01:09.

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

:01:09.:01:14.

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

:01:14.:01:24.
:01:24.:01:24.

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

:01:24.:01:33.

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

:01:34.:01:41.

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

:01:41.:01:47.

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

:01:47.:01:55.

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

:01:55.:02:01.

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

:02:01.:02:04.

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

:02:04.:02:09.

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

:02:09.:02:19.
:02:19.:02:47.

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

:02:47.:02:51.

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

:02:51.:02:57.

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

:02:57.:03:01.

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

:03:01.:03:07.

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

:03:07.:03:17.
:03:17.:03:17.

has transformed the very idea of the Afghan athlete. Taekwondo

:03:17.:03:22.

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

:03:23.:03:29.

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

:03:29.:03:33.

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

:03:33.:03:43.

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

:03:43.:03:47.

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

:03:47.:03:55.

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

:03:55.:03:58.

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

:03:58.:04:02.

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

:04:02.:04:06.

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

:04:06.:04:12.

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

:04:12.:04:18.

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

:04:18.:04:21.

telecommunications companies and for safety and sanitary in the

:04:21.:04:24.

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

:04:24.:04:33.

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

:04:33.:04:37.

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

:04:37.:04:41.

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

:04:41.:04:46.

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

:04:46.:04:52.

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

:04:52.:04:57.

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

:04:57.:05:00.

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

:05:00.:05:10.
:05:10.:05:30.

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

:05:30.:05:37.

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

:05:37.:05:41.

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

:05:41.:05:47.

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

:05:47.:05:57.
:05:57.:06:17.

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

:06:17.:06:21.

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

:06:21.:06:25.

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

:06:25.:06:32.

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

:06:32.:06:40.

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

:06:40.:06:45.

London with better training facilities than these. But from

:06:45.:06:51.

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

:06:51.:06:57.

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

:06:57.:07:04.

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

:07:04.:07:11.

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

:07:11.:07:16.

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

:07:16.:07:22.

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

:07:22.:07:30.

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

:07:30.:07:36.

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

:07:36.:07:44.

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

:07:44.:07:54.
:07:54.:07:55.

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

:07:55.:08:00.

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

:08:00.:08:06.

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

:08:06.:08:14.

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

:08:14.:08:18.

equally, this being Afghanistan, there are reminders of this

:08:18.:08:24.

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

:08:24.:08:28.

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

:08:28.:08:34.

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

:08:34.:08:37.

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

:08:37.:08:42.

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

:08:42.:08:46.

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

:08:46.:08:49.

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

:08:50.:08:58.

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

:08:58.:09:04.

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

:09:04.:09:08.

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

:09:08.:09:18.
:09:18.:09:22.

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

:09:22.:09:29.

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

:09:30.:09:34.

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

:09:34.:09:39.

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

:09:39.:09:48.

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

:09:48.:09:52.

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

:09:52.:09:55.

though and in winter it's completely unusable and sport

:09:55.:10:00.

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

:10:00.:10:04.

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

:10:05.:10:10.

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

:10:10.:10:14.

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

:10:14.:10:20.

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

:10:20.:10:23.

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

:10:23.:10:27.

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

:10:27.:10:31.

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

:10:31.:10:36.

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

:10:36.:10:43.

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

:10:43.:10:49.

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

:10:49.:10:53.

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

:10:53.:10:58.

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

:10:58.:11:08.
:11:08.:11:43.

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

:11:43.:11:48.

well beyond 2016 before these players have a hope of holding

:11:48.:11:55.

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

:11:55.:12:01.

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

:12:01.:12:06.

Afghanistan perhaps more than anywhere else in the world,

:12:06.:12:16.
:12:16.:12:16.

sporting dreams survive against overwhelming odds. The emergence of

:12:16.:12:19.

waterpolo and other fledgling sports here reveals wider truths

:12:20.:12:24.

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

:12:24.:12:30.

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

:12:30.:12:33.

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

:12:33.:12:38.

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

:12:38.:12:43.

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

:12:43.:12:47.

You saw an explosion of sports in Afghanistan and athletes coming

:12:48.:12:51.

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

:12:51.:12:56.

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

:12:56.:13:01.

became like a global phenomenon. These athletes with very little

:13:01.:13:06.

facilities, they try to express themselves and express their

:13:06.:13:11.

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

:13:11.:13:14.

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

:13:14.:13:21.

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

:13:21.:13:29.

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

:13:29.:13:39.

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

:13:39.:13:49.
:13:49.:13:50.

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

:13:50.:13:55.

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

:13:55.:14:05.

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

:14:05.:14:08.

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

:14:08.:14:14.

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

:14:14.:14:23.

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

:14:23.:14:27.

have one million disabled or paralysed like me in Afghanistan.

:14:27.:14:33.

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

:14:33.:14:39.

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

:14:39.:14:45.

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

:14:45.:14:49.

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

:14:49.:14:55.

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

:14:55.:15:01.

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

:15:01.:15:06.

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

:15:06.:15:12.

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

:15:12.:15:19.

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

:15:19.:15:24.

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

:15:24.:15:34.

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

:15:34.:15:37.

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

:15:37.:15:43.

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

:15:43.:15:50.

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

:15:50.:15:56.

London, Malik hopes to represent Afghanistan in the 2012 Paralympic

:15:56.:16:01.

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

:16:01.:16:05.

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

:16:05.:16:14.

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

:16:14.:16:20.

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

:16:20.:16:26.

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

:16:26.:16:32.

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

:16:32.:16:37.

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

:16:37.:16:41.

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

:16:41.:16:45.

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

:16:45.:16:48.

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

:16:48.:16:51.

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

:16:51.:16:57.

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

:16:57.:17:01.

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

:17:01.:17:05.

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

:17:05.:17:09.

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

:17:09.:17:12.

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

:17:12.:17:16.

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

:17:17.:17:21.

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

:17:21.:17:25.

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

:17:25.:17:28.

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

:17:29.:17:34.

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

:17:34.:17:39.

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

:17:39.:17:49.
:17:49.:17:54.

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

:17:54.:17:58.

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

:17:58.:18:01.

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

:18:02.:18:07.

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

:18:07.:18:12.

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

:18:12.:18:17.

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

:18:17.:18:22.

All of these bodybuilders regularly compete in contests that take place

:18:22.:18:28.

right across the country, culminating every year in the Mr

:18:29.:18:31.

Afghanistan competition. Contestants are scored on different

:18:31.:18:36.

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

:18:36.:18:42.

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

:18:42.:18:49.

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

:18:49.:18:57.

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

:18:57.:19:01.

kwon do. Before too long, bodybuilding became his obsession

:19:01.:19:05.

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

:19:05.:19:09.

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

:19:09.:19:19.
:19:19.:19:35.

Where there are prizes, of course there is cheating.

:19:35.:19:39.

Notably steroids. These bodybuilders all say they

:19:39.:19:43.

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

:19:43.:19:47.

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

:19:47.:19:50.

advantage. So why is this place called the

:19:50.:19:54.

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

:19:54.:19:58.

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

:19:58.:20:01.

Taliban fell from power, people started setting up markets like

:20:01.:20:06.

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

:20:06.:20:09.

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

:20:09.:20:14.

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

:20:14.:20:17.

bodybuilders within they are looking for the supplements or

:20:17.:20:21.

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

:20:21.:20:28.

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

:20:28.:20:32.

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

:20:32.:20:37.

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

:20:37.:20:41.

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

:20:41.:20:46.

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

:20:46.:20:52.

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

:20:52.:20:56.

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

:20:56.:21:01.

plenty of bodybuilders will continue to use.

:21:01.:21:06.

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

:21:06.:21:12.

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

:21:12.:21:17.

participate and freedom to abuse should not be confused.

:21:17.:21:22.

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

:21:22.:21:26.

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

:21:26.:21:29.

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

:21:30.:21:34.

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

:21:34.:21:37.

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

:21:37.:21:40.

building where the Americans fired back.

:21:40.:21:46.

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

:21:46.:21:50.

moving around, you come across checkpoints every few hundred

:21:50.:21:55.

metres. Stop check. Understandably, they

:21:55.:22:03.

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

:22:03.:22:07.

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

:22:07.:22:12.

security world can also become very normal very quickly.

:22:12.:22:16.

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

:22:16.:22:21.

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

:22:21.:22:24.

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

:22:24.:22:29.

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

:22:29.:22:35.

on with life. Even though my main focus in

:22:35.:22:38.

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

:22:38.:22:43.

the political side of this country's recent past.

:22:44.:22:48.

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

:22:48.:22:51.

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

:22:51.:22:54.

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

:22:54.:22:59.

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

:22:59.:23:04.

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

:23:04.:23:09.

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

:23:09.:23:15.

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

:23:15.:23:20.

football team. Women's sport wasn't just

:23:20.:23:28.

restricted under the Taliban, it was come plaitly banned.

:23:28.:23:34.

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

:23:34.:23:39.

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

:23:39.:23:44.

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

:23:44.:23:49.

today. That's not to say that this is

:23:49.:23:53.

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

:23:54.:23:58.

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

:23:58.:24:03.

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

:24:03.:24:13.
:24:13.:24:34.

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

:24:34.:24:40.

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

:24:40.:24:45.

say despite public attitudes, not because of them.

:24:45.:24:50.

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

:24:50.:24:54.

team is beginning to play internationals overseas and home

:24:54.:25:04.
:25:04.:25:32.

matches have drawn surprising What happens with the women's

:25:32.:25:36.

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

:25:36.:25:40.

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

:25:40.:25:47.

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

:25:47.:25:53.

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

:25:53.:26:03.
:26:03.:26:04.

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

:26:04.:26:06.

get a more Afghan backdrop than the presidential palace which was

:26:06.:26:11.

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

:26:11.:26:16.

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

:26:16.:26:19.

completely razed to the ground or reinvented as a Government building

:26:19.:26:23.

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

:26:23.:26:26.

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

:26:26.:26:32.

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

:26:32.:26:36.

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

:26:36.:26:39.

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

:26:39.:26:44.

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

:26:44.:26:48.

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

:26:48.:26:52.

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

:26:52.:26:58.

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

:26:58.:27:04.

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

:27:04.:27:07.

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

:27:07.:27:11.

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

:27:11.:27:18.

Matthew Pinsent is in Kabul, Afghanistan for a special edition of World Olympic Dreams. From the country's only Olympic medal winner, taekwondo fighter Rohullah Nikpai, to the Afghan women's football team who train despite death threats, these are the athletes who are hoping their success can redefine their country forever.


Download Subtitles

SRT

ASS