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Women Ski Jumpers Fight for Inclusion in Winter Olympics

Fourteen women ski jumpers will appear in a British Colombia court today to continue their legal battle for the opportunity to compete in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. After the International Olympic Committee (IOC) rejected the inclusion of women’s ski jumping in the 2010 games, the athletes brought the issue to court as a sex discrimination case, reports the Associated Press.

The athletes argue that the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) is subject to Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and therefore should not allow sex discrimination in the Olympic events it will host. The British Columbia Supreme Court ruled in July that while the exclusion of women’s ski jumping is discriminatory, only the IOC has the authority to determine which events are included, according to the Associated Press. The British Columbia Court of Appeals will hear the case again today and tomorrow. If the court rules in favor of the athletes, it could force VANOC to either hold a women’s ski jump competition or cancel the men’s event, reports CBC News.

The IOC says it will not stage a women’s ski jump event because there are not enough women competing at the highest levels of the sport, reports the Christian Science Monitor. However, men’s ski jumping also does not fully meet the IOC’s criteria for inclusion but was grandfathered into the 2010 games, according to the Christian Science Monitor. Members of the IOC also acknowledge that commercial appeal is a factor in what sports are chosen for the games.

VANOC argues that while they support the ski jumpers’ bid for inclusion, their hands are tied by the IOC. Cathy Priestner-Allinger, vice-president of sport and operation for VANOC, told CTV, “We will continue to do everything we can to help these athletes achieve their goal. We provided them with free access to the jumps at Whistler Olympic Park; we helped sponsor and stage several elite national and international competitions; we helped create programs to introduce more women to the sport; we welcomed one of these young ladies to participate in the Torch Relay on the first day of the relay,” referring to torchbearer Charlotte Mitchell, one of the athletes involved in the suit. American ski jumper Lindsey Van set a record for the 90-meter jump at Whistler Olympic Park when it opened last year, reports the CS Monitor.

Sources:

Associated Press 11/11/09; CBC News 11/12/09; Christian Science Monitor 11/12/09; CTV 11/11/09

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