Clouds Over Vancouver
Women Are Denied the Chance to Compete in Ski Jumping
by Catherine McNiff
When the freestyle skiers take to the slopes and the skies for the Winter Games in February 2010, it will be with great anticipation and excitement-with one exception. In 2006, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted not to include women's ski jumping in the 2010 Winter Games, claiming that the discipline does not qualify for inclusion.
According to the IOC, a winter sport must be well-developed, have mass appeal, have at least two world championships, and must be widely practiced in at least 25 countries and on three continents. For the excluded women, however, the issue at stake is gender equality. With the inclusion of women's boxing, the Summer Games now boast a full female complement to all the men's sports. For the Winter Games, only ski jumping and Nordic combined (ski jumping and cross-country skiing) lack female counterparts.
Athletes Cite Gender Discrimination in Lawsuit
Citing gender discrimination, members of the Canadian Women Ski Jumping Team filed a grievance with the Canadian Human Rights Board. Then, 14 current and former women ski jumpers sued the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee (VANOC), claiming that their rights had been violated according to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. While the Canadian Supreme Court agreed in a July 10, 2009, ruling that the women were being discriminated against, Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon stated that the court's hands were tied-the decision about inclusion is up to the IOC and neither the IOC nor VANOC are subject to the laws of the land. VANOC, too, laments the women's predicament, and passes responsibility to the IOC.
The jumpers appealed the Supreme Court's decision. After two days of legal arguments, on Nov. 13, 2009, Judge Anne Rowles had these four words, "The appeal is dismissed." Thus ended the hopes of women ski jumpers, who now must turn their attention to inclusion in the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.