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.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.)
"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)
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.)