Mixed-gender events: a sign of innovation and greater gender diversity at Tokyo 2020

To promote greater gender diversity at the Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has introduced multiple new mixed-gender events at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. They are providing an exciting new competition format and are often unpredictable and thrilling to the end for both competitors and fans.

Team France celebrate victory over Team Japan during the Mixed Team Final ©2021 Getty Images

Tokyo 2020 is hosting 18 mixed-gender events in  archery, athletics, badminton, equestrian, judo, sailing, shooting, swimming, table tennis, tennis and triathlon.

Additionally, four International Federations (IFs) have moved to gender-balanced events for the first time (canoe, rowing, shooting and weightlifting). 

Five of these mixed events featured on “Super Saturday” (31 July): athletics 4x400m mixed relay, judo mixed team, shooting trap mixed team, swimming 4x100m mixed medley relay and triathlon mixed relay. With these events, Tokyo 2020 is demonstrating its commitment to innovation and to being the most gender-balanced Olympic Games in history.

Stefanos Tsitsipas of Team Greece and Maria Sakkari of Team Greece ©2021 Getty Images

Andy Murray, a two-time Olympic champion in tennis, today expressed his strong support for the mixed events on his Twitter account, calling them “a huge asset”.

“The mixed events are trully important because they really embody the equality of male and female athletes on the field of play,” said Kit McConnell, the IOC Sports Director. “There is nothing more equal than a male and female competing as one team on the same field of play towards the same sports performance.”

Medal ceremony for the Mixed 4 x 100m Medley ©2021 Getty Images

The swimming 4x100m mixed medley relay event saw teams of four swimmers – two men and two women – racing against each other, with each team member swimming a 100m leg in one of the four main swimming strokes (backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle), one after the other. Teams could decide which athlete would swim each stroke.

Team Japan lines up to face Team Germany during the Mixed Team Quarter Final ©2021 Getty Images

In judo's first-ever Olympic mixed team event, which featured the IOC Refugee Olympic Team (EOR), teams of three male judoka (-73kg, -90kg, +90kg) and three female judoka (-57kg, -70kg, +70kg) competed to become the inaugural Olympic judo team champions.

Jessica Learmonth of Team Great Britain cycles during the Mixed Relay Triathlon ©2021 Getty Images

In the triathlon mixed relay, 10 teams competed in the race, with each one comprising four athletes: two men and two women. Each athlete had to swim for 300m, cycle for 6.8km and run for 2km before tapping the hand of their team-mate to send them on their way.

Competitors hand off their batons during the 4x400 Relay Mixed ©2021 Getty Images

The athletics 4x400m mixed relay involves teams of four athletes – two women and two men – racing against each other, with each athlete running once around the track before the next person on their team begins their run. It is up to the teams to decide in which order they run.

In shooting, a mixed event has been added for the 10m air rifle, 10m air pistol and trap for Tokyo 2020.

Mixed-gender events have featured since the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010. Some have subsequently been introduced to the Olympic programme.

Women’s leading role at Tokyo 2020

In Tokyo, in addition to introducing new mixed-gender events, a number of deliberate actions have been taken by the IOC and its stakeholders to ensure that women Olympians get more opportunities to compete during prominent Games-time broadcast slots in Tokyo.

Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony © IOC / Jason Evans

Changes have been made to the competition schedule, and medal events for women and men on the middle and final weekends, which are prime global broadcasting moments, will be balanced.

Taking advantage of a new policy introduced by the IOC, 89 per cent of the National Olympic Committee (NOC) athlete delegations during the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 were led into the Olympic Stadium by both women and men. The mixed-gender participation in that honorary role resulted from the IOC’s decision to allow one female athlete and one male athlete from each NOC to carry the flag jointly during the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Summer Games.

Gender equality is a top priority for the IOC, both on the field of play and in sports leadership roles.

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