Feds confirm they will push for female ski jumping
Published Tuesday, January 8, 2008 9:53PM EST
It's official: Canadian women ski jumpers now have two powerful allies in their quest to compete for Olympic gold in the 2010 games in Vancouver.
In an announcement Tuesday, Canada's federal government and the Canadian Olympic Committee promised to step up the pressure to get female competitors the same chance to take flight as their male counterparts.
"It's about equality," Helena Guergis, Canada's secretary of state for sport, told CTV British Columbia.
"I'm looking for an opportunity to sit down and meet with them, all of us, to make our arguments as to why they should be reversing their decision," she said.
It's the news 16-year-old ski jumper Katie Willis has waited a year to hear.
"I can't believe it," an elated Willis told CTV News. "Awesome."
The International Olympic Committee, which governs the Olympics, had grounded the jumpers, saying that women's ski jumping was not widely enough practiced in enough countries to be an Olympic event.
But last year the jumpers complained to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, arguing the Canadian government shouldn't give hundreds of millions of dollars to an event they said was discriminating against women.
Tuesday's settlement means that Canada will push the IOC to change its mind.
But Dick Pound, Canada's senior Olympic official, told Canada AM that an event has to be practiced by 25 countries on three continents to be adopted by the Games.
"For better or worse, that's simply not where women's ski jumping is at today," he said.
The IOC has long said that there simply isn't the world interest nor the level of competition necessary to hold a ski jumping competition.
"It's not the Canadian government that is hosting the event, it's the International Olympic Committee," Pound told CTV. "They have rules that are technical in nature and that's what's been applied here.
"It's not a human rights issue, no matter how you dress it up," Pound said. "That's not what the issue is."
The lack of female competitors in Olympic ski jumping is an accident of history. Any new Olympic event added since 1991 must include a competition for men and women.
But ski jumping has been an Olympic sport since the 1924 Olympics, excluding the sport from the gender-equality requirement.
Still, sports with a lower international profile have been allowed into the games, and only recently. Fourteen months ago, when the IOC voted to exclude the women, there were 83 women representing 14 nations, according to the International Ski Federation.
But when the IOC voted to include another event, ski cross, there were only 30 women from 11 nations. In the case of women's bobsleigh, there were only 26 women from 13 nations, according to the ISF.
There is precedent for the IOC to reverse its decisions, even at the last minute: only a short time before the games began, the IOC allowed women to participate in the marathon.
And in 2002, women's bobsleigh and the sport of skeleton were added only about two years before the start of the games.
The IOC didn't return phone calls Tuesday.
Pound said that women's ski jumping federations must work to get their sport up to the same level as their male counterparts. For example, there's never been a world championship for women's ski jumping, he said.
"They should use to disappointment here to mobilize for 2014," Pound said.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Mike Killeen