In November 2006, the International Olympic Committee rejected the inclusion of women's ski jumping for the Winter Games in Vancouver in 2010. IOC President Jacques Rogge stated that only 80 women were competing in the sport and including it in the 2010 Games would dilute the value of medals won in other events.
Nearly all Olympic sports have both a men's and women's event, but the International Olympic Committee always has exempted ski jumping to let it be a male-only competition. The IOC says its decision not to include women's ski jumping at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games is based on technical merit and isn't discriminatory.
However a coalition of international women ski jumpers filed a lawsuit against the Vancouver Organizing Committee in May challenging this decision. They argue that the women have been discriminated against because the Games allow only men's ski jumping. "The failure to include women's ski jumping events in the Games violates every woman's right to equal benefit under the law," according to the lawsuit filed in British Columbia Supreme Court in Vancouver.
In order to be considered for inclusion in the Olympic Games, a sport must have held at least two world championships. The first women's ski jumping world championships will be held this year in Liberec, Czech Republic.
But some say the IOC is using the technical merit justification as an excuse. Supporters of women's ski jumpers argue there are 135 women ski jumpers in 16 countries. This compares to other sports already in the Games like snowboard cross, which has 34 women from 10 countries, skier cross, which has 30 women from 11 nations, and bobsled, which has 26 women from 13 nations. They also argue that women's marathon was added to the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles after a single world championship in 1983.
Of note, is that the Canadian Government is fully supportive of the lawsuit and "would try to convince the IOC to include women's ski jumping at the Vancouver Games." David Emerson, Canada’s federal minister responsible for the 2010 Games, said it’s “extremely disappointing” women are not being allowed to ski jump at the Olympics.
“Ski jumping is an important sport and we’re investing a lot in jumping and training facilities in Canada and to not have women able to participate on the same basis as men, to me, I just don’t think it’s right.”
Deedee Corradini, who was the mayor of Salt Lake City when that city won the right to host the 2002 Winter Games, noted $580 million of Canadian taxpayers money has helped the Vancouver Olympic Games Organizing Committee (VANOC) build Olympic facilities.
“My understanding is it’s against federal and provincial law in Canada to spend government money on facilities that discriminate,” Corradini told a news conference Saturday at the Canadian ski jumping championships.
“To have a men’s only sign on these ski jumps seems to be discriminatory and contrary to Canada’s own human rights act.”
Additionally a group of Canadian women ski jumpers have filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Right Commission, arguing the Olympic movement is discriminating against them.
While Corradini and members of the Canadian ski team are vocal in their dissent, the United States Ski and Snowboard Association is taking a more diplomatic tact.
The association is the governing body for ski sports in the U.S., including jumping. Tom Kelly, vice-president of communication, refused to say if he thought women were being discriminated against.
“We have great respect for the process the IOC has for bringing the sport into the Olympics. We were disappointed when the IOC made it’s decision (on 2010.) We are very optimistic for 2014. The first world championships will be held next year and that is a critical event in the growth of the sport. When we get to the world championships, and the world sees what these women can do, that is a great message to send to the IOC.”
As 16 year-old ski jumper Zora Lynch says "It’s not about the competition between the sports. It’s about gender equality and that kind of stuff."