The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Wednesday gave teams at this year’s Tokyo Olympics the option of having a male and female competitor carrying their country’s flags at the opening ceremony.

“We have 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,” said an IOC statement.

“We encourage all National Olympic Committees to make use of this option.”

The IOC also announced that July 24-August 9 Olympics will be the “first gender-balanced Olympic Games in history with 48.8 per cent women’s participation”.

The IOC’s executive board meeting added that there should be –- for the first time -– at least one female and one male athlete in every one of the 206 teams as well as the Refugee Olympic Team participating.