Rogge: Women jumpers would dilute Olympics medals
The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, February 28, 2008 7:56PM EST
VANCOUVER - Allowing women ski jumpers into the 2010 Winter Olympics would dilute the medals being handed out to other athletes, Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, said Thursday.
Rogge said there are only about 80 women ski jumpers in the world and the sport has not yet reached the IOC's standard for being included in an Olympics.
"If you have three medals, with 80 athletes competing on a regular basis internationally, the percentage of medal winners is extremely high,'' Rogge told a news conference, wrapping up a three-day visit to Vancouver.
"In any other sport you are speaking about hundreds of thousands, if not tens of millions of athletes, at a very high level, competing for one single medal. We do not want the medals to be diluted and watered down. That is the bottom line.''
Some Canadian women ski jumpers have argued they are being discriminated against because the IOC won't allow their sport at the Vancouver Olympics. The women took their case to the Canadian Human Rights Commission and they have the support of Helena Guergis, the federal sports minister.
Rogge seemed irritated by the suggestion the IOC was discriminating against women. He has no doubt the sport will eventually gain Olympic status.
"This is not discrimination,'' he said sternly. "This is just the respect of essential technical rules that say to become an Olympic sport, a sport must be widely practised around the world . . . and have a big appeal. This is not the case for women's ski jumping so there is no discrimination what so ever.
"That will change in the future, we have no doubt about that.''
The IOC president planned to speak with Guergis by telephone later in the day to deliver the same message.
Rogge was in Vancouver as part of an IOC Co-ordination Commission visit to review the city's preparation for the 2010 Games. It was his second visit to Vancouver since the city was awarded the Games on July 2, 2003.
Besides meeting with officials of the Vancouver Olympic Games Organizing Committee, Rogge also met with B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell, plus the mayors of Vancouver and Whistler.
He called the visit "a very productive one'' and praised VANOC for having most of the Olympic venues completed two years before the Games.
"I am very pleased with the state of preparedness, there is no doubt about that,'' said Rogge. "VANOC is advancing according to the deadlines and the schedules and, even in some cases, is ahead of it. We are sure everything will be ready in due time.
"I'm also very pleased to see there is a great legacy already in place, even two years before the Games have begun.''
Later, in an interview with The Canadian Press, Rogge said he warned Vancouver officials that the 2010 Games will receive more attention from the international media and sports federations after this summer's Olympics in Beijing.
"I said to them they are leaving the comfort zone, not to enter the discomfort zone, but a more exposed zone,'' said Rogge. "As long as there is another Games in front of you, you are out of the limelight.
"Once Beijing is over they will be under much more scrutiny.''
Rogge is confident the Vancouver Olympics will not produce a deficit.
"I think at the end of the day they will break even,'' he said. "I have no doubt about that.''
Rogge's term as IOC president ends in October of 2009. He will decide after Beijing if he will seek another four-year term.
"I will clearly consider that and see the pros and the cons, and make a decision,'' he said.
John Furlong, VANOC's chief executive officer, said the IOC was pleased with Vancouver's progress.
"The process of moving toward the finish line is changing all the time,'' said Furlong. "We have come a long way but we have a long ways to go.
"It's nice to know our work is seen to be good work.''
During the news conference, Rogge was asked what impact hosting the Olympics in Beijing will have on improving human rights in China.
Rogge said the biggest force for change in China will come from the 25,000-strong media contingent attending the Games.
"We believe the Olympic Games will be a catalyst for change in China,'' he said. "They are going to do that by opening up the country to the scrutiny of the world.
"The ones who are going to open up the country are the media. They will not only report on sport, they also will report on the country. The country will want to show its best side.''
Rogge, a former orthopedic surgeon from Belgium, began the day visiting a fabrication shop in Vancouver's east side operated by VANOC and one of the Games' sponsors. The facility provides 30-week programs to teach carpentry skills to inner-city youth. Many of the wooden products built at the shop will be used at the Games.
"You are making the Games possible by what you are doing on a daily basis,'' Rogge told a group of young workers. "You are the first gold medal winners of the Vancouver Games.''
On Wednesday night, the four host First Nations partners had a ceremony where Rogge and other Olympics officials were given Salish names.