Afghanistan's participation in the Olympics has been confirmed by the IOC, saying the country will be sending a gender-equal team. GETTY IMAGES

Afghanistan will send a team of three women and three men to the Paris Olympics as demanded by the International Olympic Committee following the return to power of the Taliban in August 2021, the IOC announced on Thursday. The women will compete in athletics and cycling while their male counterparts will feature in athletics, swimming and judo.

The Olympic body said sending a gender-equal team was a message to both Afghanistan, which under Taliban rule has restricted women's and girls' access to sports and gyms, and to the rest of the world of what is possible.

"This is the result of the ongoing work that the IOC has been undertaking over the last few years, working closely with the National Olympic Committee of Afghanistan to ensure that female athletes can participate in the Games," said IOC spokesman Mark Adams.

However, the IOC said that "no representative of the Taliban government will be accredited" for the Olympics. The IOC confirmed that Afghanistan's National Olympic Committee —including the president and the secretary-general in exile— remain "its sole interlocutors for the preparation and participation of the Afghan team," according to Adams.

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

Since the return of the Taliban to power in Kabul in 2021, they have closed girls' high schools, placed travel restrictions on women without a male guardian and restricted access to parks and gyms and the IOC has been pressing the Afghan authorities to guarantee "access to sport in complete safety for women and young girls", by providing financial aid to athletes. In mid-March, the Olympic body insisted that it would "do everything possible" to ensure that an Afghan team "respecting gender parity" was sent to the 2024 Olympics.

After "a certain number of discussions" with Afghan athletes, the IOC "does not think that isolating the Afghan sports community at this time is the right approach," said James Macleod, the IOC's director of Olympic Solidarity.