Afghanistan to field gender-equal team in Paris, no Taliban allowed: IOC

Afghanistan will field a gender-equal team at the Paris Olympics, consisting of three women and three men, in a largely symbolic move, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on Thursday, June 13. No Taliban officials will be allowed at the Games.

The IOC stated that fielding a gender-equal team sends a message to both Afghanistan, where the Taliban has restricted women’s and girls’ access to sports and gyms, and to the rest of the world about what is possible.

Both the head of Afghanistan’s national Olympic committee (NOC) recognized by the IOC and its secretary general are currently in exile, the IOC said.

“The clear idea is we want to get Afghan athletes and a gender-based team in Paris because of the demonstration that it gives to the world, at home in Afghanistan and also to the rest of the world,” IOC spokesperson Mark Adams told a press conference.

The Taliban, who claim to respect women’s rights in accordance with their interpretation of Islamic law and local customs, have closed girls’ high schools, placed travel restrictions on women without a male guardian, and restricted access to parks and gyms since seizing power in August 2021.

Adams confirmed that no Taliban official would be accredited for the Games.

The IOC has recently said it was in talks with both the Afghan NOC and sports authorities “with the aim to reverse the current restrictions on access to sport for women and young girls in Afghanistan.”

Afghanistan’s male athletes will compete in athletics, swimming, and judo in Paris, while the women will participate in athletics and cycling competitions, Adams said.

In February, a United Nations expert described the Taliban’s disrespect for the rights of women and girls as “unparalleled in the world,” and said their takeover had “exacerbated a high prevalence of gender-based violence against women and girls.”

The IOC suspended Afghanistan’s NOC in 1999, and the country was barred from the 2000 Sydney Games. Afghanistan was reinstated after the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

Meanwhile, France has been awarded a medal from the 1900 Paris Olympics that was originally credited to Great Britain. The medal was won for Britain by Lloyd Hildebrand, who competed in two cycling events and came second in the men’s 25km, but the IOC Executive Board has re-awarded it to France.

“Recent research has now concluded that, even though Hildebrand was a British citizen, he was born and brought up in France, and competed for a French club before and after Paris 1900,” Adams said earlier in the press conference.

Athletes at the time were registered under the national federation they were competing with, and National Olympic Committees were not yet part of the process.