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IOC approves mixed athletics, swimming relays for 2020

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) - Mixed relays in athletics and swimming and three-a-side basketball were among new events approved on Friday by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for inclusion in the Tokyo Games in 2020.

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The IOC’s executive board also agreed to add mixed doubles in table tennis, mixed team events in judo, shooting and archery and a mixed team triathlon.

IOC President Thomas Bach said the new disciplines would make the games “more youthful, more urban and will include more women”.

An IOC statement said Tokyo would include a 4 x 400 mixed relay in athletics and a 4 x 100 medley mixed relay in swimming. Swimming would also include two further new events - a men’s 800 metres and women’s 1500 metres freestyle race.

The world athletics body (IAAF) described the mixed relay as a “delightfully chaotic” event. It was staged for the first time at an IAAF event at the world youth championships in Cali, Colombia, in 2015 and was won by South Africa. Another was staged at the world relays in Bahamas in April.

Teams are given the freedom to line up in whichever order they choose, allowing for sizeable leads to develop, or collapse, as the race progresses.

Three-a-side basketball, an urban sport where the teams aim for the same hoop, was introduced at the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore 2010 and Nanjing in 2014.

The IOC said that men’s and women’s madison would be added to track cycling and Freestyle Park to BMX cycling. Boxing, canoeing and rowing had agreed to reduce the number of men’s events in exchange for more women’s events.

The IOC has already agreed to introduce five new sports at the Tokyo Games - baseball, softball, surfing, sports climbing and skateboarding.

It said there would be a net increase of 15 events, an overall reduction of 285 athletes compared to Rio in 2016 and “the highest representation of female athletes in Olympic history”.

The decision is a significant step toward having equal numbers of male and female athletes and events at the Games, the IOC said.

Reporting by Brian Homewood; editing by Mark Heinrich