BERLIN -- Women's boxing will make its Olympic debut at the 2012 London Games, giving all 26 sports on the program female and male competitors.
The International Olympic Committee added the event to the program on Thursday during a meeting of the executive board.
"It's a great addition," IOC president Jacques Rogge said. "The sport of women's boxing has progressed a lot, a tremendous amount, in the last five years. It was about time to include it in the Olympic Games."
Female boxers will compete in three weight classes, with 12 competitors each in flyweight, lightweight and middleweight. To make room for the 36 boxers, one of the 11 men's classes will be dropped.
"We made an internal adjustment ... to keep the quota," international boxing federation president C.K. Wu said. "This is a very important guideline by the IOC. [If] you want to increase the quota, it's not easy."
The IOC has a limit of 286 boxers in the Olympics, so only 250 men will be allowed to compete in London. Still, the men will fight for 10 gold medals; the women will compete for three.
"There are still major disparities in the number of medals women can win compared to men but this is a step in the right direction," British Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell said.
Like men's boxing, the women's competition will be confined to amateurs.
"We don't allow professionals," said Wu, who added that the world championships would likely serve as the qualifying competition.
Four years ago, women's boxing was rejected as an Olympic sport for failing to reach standards of medical safety and universality.
"From the medical point of view, we've checked everything," Rogge said. "There is no issue."
Now that women's boxing is officially in, Wu is already looking ahead to the future.
"I already have plans to support all national federations who want to develop women's boxing," Wu said. "AIBA will offer long-term support to talented young boxers, particularly those from emerging nations, and it will create more competitions for women, at both international and continental levels."
The IOC made several other changes to the 2012 schedule, including reducing all men's 500-meter canoe events to 200 meters.
"That will give a more spectacular race," Rogge said.
Also, the modern pentathlon will implement a run-shoot format, similar to biathlon, rather than the normal shooting and running events; handball is dropping the non-medal consolation matches; and wrestling, swimming and cycling were all given the option to institute new events if they drop others.