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Tokyo Olympics 2020: Pakistani horserider Usman Khan's 'Azad Kashmir' horse a cause of distress for India’s Olympics administrators

Modified 06 Feb 2020, 13:20 IST

Usman Khan
Usman Khan

What's the story?

Pakistan's Usman Khan will be taking part in equestrian's individual eventing at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics 2020. India's Fouaad Mirza will also take part in the same event. Usman's horse is named ‘Azad Kashmir’ which literally translates to Independent Kashmir and this has become a cause of distress for India's Olympic administrators. 

The background

Earlier in December 2019, Usman Khan secured a berth for the Summer Olympics when he and his horse 'Azad Kashmir' won a competition in Australia and secured the requisite qualifying points required for the quadrennial extravaganza. The soon-to-be Olympian finished 1st in FEI CCI 3 Star, 2nd in FEI CCI 2 Star, and 6th in FEI CCI 2 Star. 

The Pakistani rider purchased the New Zealand thoroughbred horse from Australia's Belinda Isbister in April 2019 and his original name was 'Here-to-stay.' Usman renamed him 'Azad Kashmir' after purchasing him. 

Originally, the Lahore-born rider had entered the FEI circuit with a horse named Al-Buraq but he had got injured and Usman had to look for another horse.

Now that Usman has qualified, it will be Pakistan's maiden appearance in the sport at the Olympics. 

The heart of the matter

According to the International Equestrian Federation's (FEI) database, Usman did purchase the 12-year-old horse 'Here-to-Stay' and renamed him 'Azad Kashmir'. This has become a matter of distress for India's Olympic administrators as he will be riding the same horse during the Tokyo Olympics 2020 as well. 

India's Fouaad Mirza will also be taking part in Individual Eventing as he has also secured a berth

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has decided to take legal opinion in order to determine if the matter falls under the Olympic Charter’s Rule 50. The rule has clauses that protect the neutrality of the Olympic Games as well as the sport. One of the clauses in Rule 50 states:

"No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”


'Azad Kashmir' has been named after the region which was invaded and occupied by Pakistan back in 1947. India refers to this region as Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and the fact that the horse is named 'Azad Kashmir' may well come into conflict with Rule 50. 

Narinder Batra, IOA President, told Hindustan Times:

“Political neutrality has to be maintained at the Olympics at any cost. People can’t be allowed to play mischief at the Games."

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) might lodge a complaint with the Equestrian Federation of Pakistan (EFP) relating to the matter. In case that happens, then an EFP official has confirmed that the body will take the matter up with the Lahore-born rider Usman Khan. 

The IT and communication head of EFP - Irfan Zaafar - remarked:

“He (Usman) 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."

What's next?

In case IOA intervenes on this matter and forbids Usman from making such political statements at the Olympics, then Zaafar has stated that the horse will participate using a unique alpha-numeric code that is given to all the competing horses by the FEI and not use its name. 

Irfan Zaafar signed off by saying:

“If it becomes an issue then we’ll first check if Usman is flexible with changing the name. But then we can always use its FEI identity instead of the name.”
Published 06 Feb 2020, 13:20 IST
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