LAUSANNE, Switzerland: National teams can appoint a man and a woman as their flag bearers at the opening ceremony for this year's Tokyo Olympics after the International Olympic Committee broke with tradition to send a message of gender parity.
IOC President Thomas Bach said on Wednesday the organisation had amended its protocol to allow both genders to be represented in what is among the most-watched broadcasts of the Games.
In the opening ceremony all the teams enter the stadium with each led by a flagbearer, usually a country's leading medal hope or an athlete who has been successful in a major event.
The IOC also said at least one male and one female athlete must be included in each of the 206 delegations that will compete in Tokyo.
Saudi Arabia, for example, had never included women in its Olympic teams until the 2012 London Olympics.
"We encourage all national Olympic committees to make use of this option (of the double flagbearer)," Bach said.
"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 added.
About 51.2per cent of the 11,000 athletes at the Tokyo Games will be men and 48.8per cent women.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Ed Osmond)