Pakistan rider’s ‘Azad Kashmir’ horse likely to run into Tokyo 2020 row: Report
SRINAGAR: In December, Pakistani horserider Usman Khan qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics — marking his country’s maiden appearance in equestrian’s individual eventing. Two months later, Usman’s upcoming presence at the Games has become a cause of concern among India’s Olympics administrators, reported Hindustan Times.
According to the report, the reason is that Usman’s horse, the one he rode to qualify for Tokyo, is named ‘Azad Kashmir’ (Independent Kashmir).
“According to a horse database maintained by the international equestrian federation (FEI), Usman bought a 12-year-old bay-colt named “Here-to-Stay” from Belinda Isbister of Australia in April 2019, and renamed him Azad Kashmir. Usman is set to ride the same horse at the Olympics as well,” Hindustan Times reported.
The report said that with India’s Fouaad Mirza also having qualified for the same event in Tokyo, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has sought legal opinion to check if the matter would fall under the purview of the Olympic Charter’s Rule 50 which provides a framework to protect the neutrality of sport and the Olympic Games. Rule 50 states that “no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas”.
“Political neutrality has to be maintained at the Olympics at any cost,” Hindustan Times IOA president Narinder Batra as having said. “People can’t be allowed to play mischief at the Games.”
Meanwhile, an official from the Equestrian Federation of Pakistan (EFP) said that if the International Olympic Committee lodges a formal complaint with the body, then it will take the matter up with Usman Khan. “He has chosen the name of the horse and qualified with the same horse, so I don’t think the horse’s name can be changed at this moment,” Muhamad Irfan Zaafar, head of IT and communication at EFP was quoted by Hindustan Times as saying.
Asked what would be his federation’s stand if the International Olympic Committee intervenes and prohibits Usman from making political statements at the Olympics, Zaafar said the horse would then participate with its FEI identity, a unique alpha-numeric code given to competing horses, instead of its name.
“If it becomes an issue then we’ll first check if Usman is flexible with changing the name,” Hindustan Times quoted Zaafar as having said. “But then we can always use its FEI identity instead of the name.”