IOC sends extremely strong message that gender balance is a reality at the Olympic Games

- Gender balanced Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
- Full gender representation across all NOCs for the first time ever
- Rule change to allow one female and one male flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony

The Executive Board (EB) of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) today made two key decisions to draw even more attention to gender equality at the Olympic Summer Games, starting with Tokyo 2020.

 “The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will be the first gender-balanced Olympic Games in history with 48.8 per cent women’s participation,” said IOC President Thomas Bach. “Today, the IOC EB also decided that there should be – for the first time ever – at least one female and one male athlete in every one of the 206 teams and the IOC Refugee Olympic Team participating at the Games of the Olympiad. Additionally, we have also changed the rules to allow National Olympic Committees to nominate a female and a male athlete to jointly bear their flag during the Opening Ceremony. We encourage all National Olympic Committees to make use of this option. With these two initiatives, the IOC is sending another extremely strong message to the world that gender balance is a reality at the Olympic Games,” Bach stressed.

Full gender representation across all NOCs for the first time ever

In order to ensure full gender representation across the teams from the 206 National Olympic Committees (NOCs), the EB decided that all NOCs should be represented by a minimum of one female and one male athlete at all editions of the Olympic Summer Games. This will be applied for the first time ever at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

The EB ratified the principle of working with the International Federations (IFs) to allocate a limited number of additional quota places to NOCs that have not managed to qualify, or secured a tripartite invitation place, for a minimum of one man and one woman for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

One female and one male flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony

The IOC EB approved a change to the IOC’s protocol guidelines to allow one female athlete and one male athlete of each NOC to bear the flag jointly during the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Summer Games. All NOCs are encouraged to make use of this opportunity.

The Olympic journey towards gender equality

From 1900, when, for the first time, 22 women participated in the Olympic Games in Paris, until 2018, when the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires was the first fully gender-balanced Olympic event ever, many efforts have been made by the IOC to achieve gender balance at Games time.

London 2012 marked the first time that all NOCs had managed to include at least one female athlete in their delegation in the history of the Games: Brunei, Saudi Arabia and Qatar all had female athletes as part of their delegations for the first time ever. However, no edition of the Olympic Games has enjoyed the landmark of having all 206 NOCs represented by at least one male and one female athlete together in their delegations.

In addition, a number of important decisions have recently been made to create a more gender-balanced event programme and athlete quotas for Tokyo 2020. Four IFs will move to gender-balanced events for the first time (Canoe, Rowing, Shooting and Weightlifting). At discipline level, gender balance will be achieved in BMX racing, mountain biking and freestyle wrestling. In terms of athlete quotas, six IFs will move to gender balance for the first time (Canoe, Judo, Rowing, Sailing, Shooting and Weightlifting).

All these actions will lead to an expected new record of 48.8 per cent women’s participation in Tokyo 2020, with a commitment to reach full gender equality for the Olympic Games Paris 2024.

The IOC itself has forged a new path in advancing gender equality in the sporting arena and beyond, as reaffirmed with the launch of its Gender Equality Review Project in 2018.

Both on and off the field of play, all stakeholders in the Olympic Movement are working towards better gender balance at the Olympic Games and Youth Olympic Games (YOG) and in the administration and leadership of sports organisations. Today’s decisions by the IOC EB reinforce this commitment. At the IOC for example, 46 per cent of IOC commission members are female. This is a historic high. Since 2013, as a result of Olympic Agenda 2020, female participation in the IOC commissions has more than doubled.


The International Olympic Committee is a not-for-profit independent international organisation made up of volunteers, which is committed to building a better world through sport. It redistributes more than 90 per cent of its income to the wider sporting movement, which means that every day the equivalent of 3.4 million US dollars goes to help athletes and sports organisations at all levels around the world.


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