High-profile exits ahead of Vancouver 2010 raise questions about competitors’ safety.
|Ski jumping is one of the few Olympic sports that allows one gender [GALLO/GETTY]|
Female ski jumpers lost their final bid to compete at the Vancouver Olympics when the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear their appeal.
The women contend that Vancouver organisers are breaking Canada’s Charter of Rights by hosting only men’s ski jumping.
The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of lower court rulings that Canada did not have the legal power to force the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to hold both men’s and women’s ski jumping events in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
As is customary, the Supreme Court gave no reasons for its decision.
The women’s lawyer called the exclusion “textbook discrimination.”
“We are very disappointed the Supreme Court of Canada does not view this as matter of national importance,” Ross Clark said.
Deedee Corradini, president of Women’s Ski Jumping USA, said they would not give up.
“Although we are hugely disappointed by the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear us this time, we won’t give up. This is about human rights and discrimination.”
“No qualified athlete should be denied the right to participate in the Olympics because of gender,” Corradini said
“It’s a wrong that must be righted.”
The women first launched a lawsuit against local organisers in May 2008, 18 months after the IOC decided against the inclusion of women’s ski jumping.
They dropped a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission when the federal government agreed to lobby the IOC. When that failed, they pursued a court case.
The women wanted the courts to force Vancouver organisers to either add a women’s event or cancel the men’s. Organisers said they could do neither.
Ski jumping has been an Olympic sport since 1924, but is one of the few events in either the Winter or Summer Games that does not have competitions for both men and women.
All new sports allowed into the Games must be gender equal.
The IOC has refused to sanction women’s ski jumping in the Games, arguing that not enough women are competing in the sport worldwide for it to qualify as an Olympic event, but said it hopes that women’s ski jumping will meet the requirements for inclusion at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
There are also rules dictating how far in advance a sport can be added to the Olympic program.
The women countered they have since held enough international events to qualify for consideration as an Olympic sport and said it wouldn’t be difficult for organisers to accommodate one additional event.
The IOC has decided to include women’s ski jumping at the inaugural WinterYouth Olympic Games in 2012 in Innsbruck, Austria, and will consider adding the event to the Sochi Olympics in 2014.
IOC president Jacques Rogge said earlier this month that the women had not met the standards for inclusion in 2010.
“We did not want the medals to be watered down by too little a pool of very good jumpers,” he said.
“There was not enough quality at the time.”
Rogge said there are 164 registered women jumpers in the world, compared to more than 2,500 men. He said there are about 15 “technically very able” jumpers but the rest are not up to world standards.
“We are considering definitely to include them in Sochi should the progress they are making continue,” Rogge said.