Thursday, July 09, 2009

Blog blast past: Women's ski jumping gets day in court

The B.C. Supreme Court has ruled against a group of 15 past and present female ski jumpers who were trying to get their event added to the 2010 Winter Olympics. The court " that their exclusion from the Winter Olympics is discriminatory ... (but) concluded that VANOC was not in breach of the Charter because the decision to keep their event from the Olympics was made by the International Olympic Committee" and thus exclusive of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. One question to be answered is, as a Canadian, what does this do to one's anticipation of the Olympics. From April 19, here is this site's take on the case.

The discrimination lawsuit involving Canadian ski jumpers Nata de Leeuw, Zora Lynch, Katie Willis (pictured), Jade Edwards, Charlotte Mitchell and Marie-Pierre Morin is to be heard tomorrow in court.

The Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee has chosen a novel tack in its defence: Emotional blackmail. Well, hey, if the other side is going to try its case in the media...
"In their statement of defence, VANOC argues a victory for the women could mean the IOC will never again award an Olympics to Canada.

"The claim raises a lot of eyebrows, even among longtime supporters of the Olympic movement.

"The IOC would never do that, said Bruce Kidd, a former Olympian and professor at the University of Toronto.

" 'If it were true, whose side are we on?' he said.

" 'If the price of hosting the Olympic Games, or the Winter Olympic Games, is that we deny opportunities to women, well, maybe we don't want the Games.' "
The Canadian Press (emphasis mine)
It seems worth pointing out since Kidd's comments come 22 paragraphs deep into the story, meaning they likely didn't make it into many Sunday newspapers in Canada. (You can always trust a wire service to bury the salient stuff.)

That sounds manipulative. Granted, speaking as the one-time defendant in one of the lamest lawsuits in the annals of Ontario jurisprudence, it is standard to put anything and everything into a statement of claim or statement of defence.

The VANOC is caught in the middle, as the article notes. The ski jumpers' push to get a women's event added to the Olympic programme for 2010 rests on topping a huge legal domino.

They have to prove the host committee for the Games is a government organization and subject to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

It might seem like VANOC, which getting hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money to put on the quadrennial celebration of corporatism and obscure sports is part of the government. The law, though, is a real ass sometimes.

The IOC, which is used to doing whatever it wants, wherever it wants, obviously hopes the court will uphold VANOC. It probably has ramifications in terms of getting around quaint local customs such as the right to free assembly (i.e., protesters).

Follow the money. Lose this case, and it opens up all sorts of legal precedents.
They can't be that concerned about health risks to women jumpers, considering what 16-year-old gymnasts are subjected to.

The IOC has already changed its rules, saying an event could not be added until it had held two world championships. The funny thing about that was that it wasn't a problem in the '80s when the women's marathon race was added for the '84 Los Angeles Olympics, but the Games weren't such a license to print money in those days.

It's probably no great progressive statement to say a women's ski jumping event should be in the Olympics. The fact sheet that the jumpers' P.R. representatives noted that 35 athletes have had a top-10 finish on the FIS Continental Cup in the past two seasons, which shows there is depth in the field, especially compared to curling or hockey.

Anyway, it seemed worth noting. The jumpers are well-organized; they don't need my help. They have one of Vancouver's top lawyers, Ross Clark, working pro bono, there's a documentary film coming out, it's caught the fancy of a bunch of Tribeca trend-hoppers.

They deserve a chance. The VANOC deserves to get slapped for selling out Canadian athletes because, oh, it might make the IOC mad. At least we know where they stand.

(As an aside, Canada hosting the Olympics again is moot. The Summer Games have been to Montreal, the Winter Games have been to Calgary and Vancouver. There is no other Canadian city fit to host.)


Mike Radoslav said...

VANOC still getting pushed around by the IOC, just like in the Right to Play judgment call. I agree with Kidd's comment (good work picking that one out!) that if this is the kind of thing that the IOC stands for, why do we want to host the game anyways?

So from what I can tell the IOC is against impoverished children learning to play sports and women (in a way, as well) least that's what the lead up to 2010 is telling us! As much as I always love the Games for their support of amateur athletes I'm beginning to find the IOC themselves even harder to support as the days go by...

Andrew Bucholtz said...

Good stuff, Neate. Mike's quite right that the IOC's reaction here is diametrically opposed to their "principles", which they dumped a long time ago. I'm not a big Olympics guy, but they would be improved if these female ski jumpers were allowed to compete.

Dave said...

IOC = spoiled brats. They oust baseball/softball which are truly competitive with vast participation worldwide (if not so much in Europe) in a huff over lack of MLB participation (which ain't gonna happen) but keep things like women's hockey, which isn't competitive at all. As for women's ski jumping, it wouldn't even matter if they were any good at it (they most likely are), all the ski jumping nations have women competing, they've built the jumps, farthest jump wins, what are we missing?

sager said...


Good points. I honestly don't know. One of the good points I have heard is ski jump is a discipline where a woman might be able to do better than a man, since like you say, it's farthest jump wins.

Every athletic discipline has had its little gender prejudices. For instance, for the longest time in track and field there was no marathon or steeplechase for women.

Dennis Prouse said...

For this and many other reasons, I am having a hard time whipping up a lot of patriotic fervor for 2010. As mentioned, the IOC long ago stopped being about the principle of sport, and simply became a country club for old money Euro-weenie sports bureaucrats. The Right to Play controversy made me nauseous, and was the last straw. Sure, I'll watch, but I don't think I'll well up with tears when the closing ceremonies take place.

sager said...

Well, they lost the case. The judge ruled they are being discriminated against but it does not fall under Canadian law because it's the IOC's call. The next step is to borrow from the Book of Balsillie and embarrass the hell out of the sport organization which won't let you join.

I've updated the post with a new link.