International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach speaks during an IOC Executive Board meeting in Tokyo. Photo: Eugene Hoshiko/AP Photo

TOKYO The International Olympic Committee said on Saturday it was setting up a rights committee chaired by a prominent former UN commissioner to advise it on issues including transgender athletes.

But the committee will not be looking at human rights situations in host countries, an issue that has gained increasing attention in recent years.

Speaking in Tokyo after a meeting of the IOC's executive board, president Thomas Bach said the committee would be a "key instrument to help the IOC to meet our human rights responsibilities with a more strategic approach than we could do so in the past".

The panel will be chaired by former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein and will include six to nine additional members to be named next year.

"One of the issues where we will ask already this advisory committee to help us... concerns the transgender policy of the IOC and the Olympic movement, where very complicated issues have to be addressed, where human rights play a central role," Bach said.

There have been heated discussions in recent years about the inclusion of transgender athletes in the Olympics, and criticism of sporting authorities for basing eligibility on testosterone levels.

And while the committee will offer advice on a range of rights issues, Bach said it would be limited to "our spheres of work," adding: "We will not pretend that the IOC or the Olympic games can solve human rights issues beyond our sphere of work."

Asked whether the body could, for instance, discuss reports of mass internment in parts of China in the context of Beijing hosting the 2022 Winter Games, Bach stressed that those issues were "political."

"The IOC has neither the mandate nor the authority to solve the human rights problems that are going beyond our mandate, which are clearly political issues," he said.

Human rights issues have drawn attention and criticism in recent years, including outspoken opposition to Russia's anti-gay laws when it hosted the Winter Games in Sochi in 2014.

AFP