Women lose court bid to ski jump in Vancouver Olympics
VANCOUVER, British Columbia – A group of women ski jumpers lost its case to be part of the 2010 Winter Olympics.
The British Columbia Supreme Court said Friday it doesn’t have the authority to force the International Olympic Committee to put the sport on the program.
Fifteen former and current female ski jumpers went to court in April, contending their exclusion from the Vancouver Games violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The IOC maintains female ski jumpers are prevented from competing at the games because they fail to meet Olympic criteria, not because of gender discrimination.
The women wanted a court declaration ordering the Vancouver organizing committee to either hold women’s ski jumping in 2010 or cancel all ski jumping events.
“We believe we had a fair hearing,” said Ross Clark, the women’s lawyer. “We accept the judge’s ruling, but we also need time to consider whether we will appeal.”
Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon expressed sympathy for the women but ruled the IOC is not governed by the Charter, and the organization does not fall under the court’s jurisdiction.
“The IOC made a decision that discriminates against the plaintiffs,” Fenlon wrote in her 42-page decision. “Only the IOC can alleviate that discrimination by including an Olympic ski jumping event for women in the 2010 Games.
“There will be little solace to the plaintiffs in my finding that they have been discriminated against; there is no remedy available to them in this court.”
The IOC said it was pleased the games can proceed as planned but objected to the court’s comment that it acted with bias.
“Our decision was based on technical issues, without regard to gender,” the IOC said in a statement.
Katie Willis, one of the women named as a plaintiff, said she will probably quit ski jumping.
“All of my dreams since I was 8 years old, to go to the Olympics,” she told The Canadian Press by phone from Calgary, Alberta. “All these little girls coming up, a lot of their dreams are crashing. There isn’t the 2010 Games to shoot for anymore.”
Willis took little comfort in the judge saying the women were discriminated against.
“It is a moral victory because she noted it was discrimination and it was the IOC that is discriminating against us,” she said. “But it is hollow because she says she can’t do anything because it’s not the Vancouver Olympic committee.”
John Furlong, chief executive of the Vancouver organizers, said his group will continue to plan for the men’s ski jump. He called the issue a “difficult and challenging process for all involved.”
“We appreciate Justice Fenlon’s careful consideration of the very complex issues,” he said.
One of the legal points at issue was whether the Charter applies to the Vancouver committee. Fenlon said the committee was not in breach of the Charter.
“VANOC has no power either to order the inclusion of women’s ski jumping in the Olympic program or to order the removal of men’s ski jumping from the 2010 Games,” she wrote. “In other words, VANOC is not under a duty to distribute equally what is has no power to provide.”
Deedee Corradini, president of Women Ski Jumping-USA, promised to keep fighting for her sport.
“We won’t give up until women’s ski jumping is in the Olympics,” she said. “But it’s unfortunate this legal effort failed and they won’t be in 2010.”
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