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Women ski jumpers fight VANOC for their right to compete

The fifteen women ski jumpers suing the Vancouver Organizing Committee for their right to participate in next year’s Olympics had their first of five days in court yesterday.

The case, being heard at the B.C. Supreme Court is attracting its fare share of attention from news outlets worldwide. At least four documentary crews are also closely following the proceedings.

Ski jumping is the only sport on the schedule at the Vancouver Games not to include both genders, an offense the female jumpers say violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Former Salt Lake City mayor Deedee Corradini has joined the jumpers’ plight as president of Women’s Ski Jumping USA. “This is a very historic day,” she said standing on the courthouse steps. “It’s been an uphill battle for five years … but we are cautiously optimistic that women will be jumping in Vancouver 2010.”

“There’s no question in anyone’s mind that this is blatant discrimination,” Corradini continued. “This may finally bring us to some kind of parity and equality in the Olympics for the first time in history.”

Current women’s world champion, American Lindsey Van, one of the athlete-leaders of the group, is on hand during the trial to bring attention to the case. “It just hurts not to have that opportunity,” she told the Globe and Mail. “We train so hard, but the men are allowed in and we are not. It’s very disappointing.”

VANOC officials have said that the decision to bar women’s ski jumping was handed down from the International Olympic Committee, which operates outside of Canadian jurisdiction, in 2006. The IOC claims the decision is not bases on gender, but rather the failure of women’s ski jumping to meet certain criteria.

Making the IOC’s decision even harder to swallow for the jumpers is the fact that at the same 2006 meeting the organization decided to admit women’s ski cross racing to the Olympic program. To Corradini this suggests that the IOC made its decision on pure discrimination, as the number of women participating in ski jumping far outweighed that of women ski cross racers at the time.

“Just look at the data. At the time the IOC told these women no, we had 83 women from 14 nations competing at the elite level,” she said. “Ski cross had 30 women from 11 nations.”

An IOC rule adopted in 1991 allowed women’s ski cross to be accepted as it outlines that all new sports added to the Olympics must include both men’s and women’s competitions. Since men’s ski jumping was a part of the Olympics prior to the rule, it doesn’t force the IOC to allow the women’s event.

The case could also set a precedent that would lead to the inclusion of women’s boxing, the only summer Olympic event closed to women, at the London Games in 2012.

The jumpers’ attorney Ross Clark told the court that the exclusion of women’s ski jumping in the Olympics stems from long-held beliefs of international sports officials that women cannot physically endure the impact of landing.  

Clark argues that by hosting and paying for the event VANOC is entitled to make the decision independent of the IOC’s stance. “It is VANOC, not the IOC, that is planning, organizing, financing and staging the 2010 Games,” Clark said. “VANOC’s constitutional obligations cannot be weakened, much less eliminated, by the IOC.”

Each side has two days in court to make its case. VANOC will outline its defense tomorrow and Thursday.

Information for this story was provided by the Canadian Press and Globe and Mail.


The fifteen women ski jumpers suing the Vancouver Organizing Committee for their right to participate in next year’s Olympics had their first of five days in court yesterday.

The case, being heard at the B.C. Supreme Court is attracting its fare share of attention from news outlets worldwide. At least four documentary crews are also closely following the proceedings.

Ski jumping is the only sport on the schedule at the Vancouver Games not to include both genders, an offense the female jumpers say violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Former Salt Lake City mayor Deedee Corradini has joined the jumpers’ plight as president of Women’s Ski Jumping USA. “This is a very historic day,” she said standing on the courthouse steps. “It’s been an uphill battle for five years … but we are cautiously optimistic that women will be jumping in Vancouver 2010.”

“There’s no question in anyone’s mind that this is blatant discrimination,” Corradini continued. “This may finally bring us to some kind of parity and equality in the Olympics for the first time in history.”

Current women’s world champion, American Lindsey Van, one of the athlete-leaders of the group, is on hand during the trial to bring attention to the case. “It just hurts not to have that opportunity,” she told the Globe and Mail. “We train so hard, but the men are allowed in and we are not. It’s very disappointing.”

VANOC officials have said that the decision to bar women’s ski jumping was handed down from the International Olympic Committee, which operates outside of Canadian jurisdiction, in 2006. The IOC claims the decision is not bases on gender, but rather the failure of women’s ski jumping to meet certain criteria.

Making the IOC’s decision even harder to swallow for the jumpers is the fact that at the same 2006 meeting the organization decided to admit women’s ski cross racing to the Olympic program. To Corradini this suggests that the IOC made its decision on pure discrimination, as the number of women participating in ski jumping far outweighed that of women ski cross racers at the time.

“Just look at the data. At the time the IOC told these women no, we had 83 women from 14 nations competing at the elite level,” she said. “Ski cross had 30 women from 11 nations.”

An IOC rule adopted in 1991 allowed women’s ski cross to be accepted as it outlines that all new sports added to the Olympics must include both men’s and women’s competitions. Since men’s ski jumping was a part of the Olympics prior to the rule, it doesn’t force the IOC to allow the women’s event.

The case could also set a precedent that would lead to the inclusion of women’s boxing, the only summer Olympic event closed to women, at the London Games in 2012.

The jumpers’ attorney Ross Clark told the court that the exclusion of women’s ski jumping in the Olympics stems from long-held beliefs of international sports officials that women cannot physically endure the impact of landing.  

Clark argues that by hosting and paying for the event VANOC is entitled to make the decision independent of the IOC’s stance. “It is VANOC, not the IOC, that is planning, organizing, financing and staging the 2010 Games,” Clark said. “VANOC’s constitutional obligations cannot be weakened, much less eliminated, by the IOC.”

Each side has two days in court to make its case. VANOC will outline its defense tomorrow and Thursday.

Information for this story was provided by the Canadian Press and Globe and Mail.


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