April 28th, 2009
While FasterSkier has not generally covered ski jumping in the past, we have been providing updates on the ongoing controversy involving Women’s Ski Jumping and the 2010 Olympic Games. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) did not approve Women’s Ski Jumping for the Games, and in an effort to gain inclusion, a group of elite female ski jumpers sued in Canadian court on the premise that the IOC was violating the Canadian Charter granting equal rights.
The IOC has argued they do not fall under the auspices of Canadian law as they are an international organization based in Switzerland. I am not a lawyer or a legal expert in any way, and I do know that there is precedent for this type of argument, but the idea that any international organization could ignore what amounts to human rights protections is absurd, and exceedingly dangerous. Even the US military is subject to the laws of the nation in which they are deployed.
The trial wrapped up last Friday, and now both sides are waiting for the ruling. A recap of the legal proceedings can be found here. You can get the women’s perspective at www.wsjusa.com. The site features a number of videos, including a trailer for the documentary, “Fighting Gravity.”
But legal issues aside, it is deplorable that the IOC, an organization that claims to promote the values of fair play and ethical principle would chose to exclude female ski jumpers from the Olympics without good reason.
An excerpt from the Olympic charter reads:
Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy found in effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.
Ethical principles? There is nothing ethical about discrimination based on gender. The IOC has made the following arguments for rejecting women’s ski jumping bid to be included in the Olympics, despite full FIS support:
- Women’s Ski Jumping has not held the requisite two World Championship events. This claim is completely true, but other sports have not been held to this standard in the past (i.e Women’s Marathon in 1984).
- Women’s Ski Jumping is not at a high enough level. Lindsey Van (USA) who won the first World Championship gold in Women’s Ski Jumping, holds the record for longest jump on the 100 meter Olympic hill in Whistler – that includes men! Van’s medal winning performance in Liberec would have placed her 20th in the men’s competition.
- There is not enough World Cup level participation. Women’s Ski Jumping World Cup events easily feature more competitors than Ski Cross (admitted to the Olympics for the first time for 2010), Bobsleigh, and Luge.
Ron Judd of the Seattle Times recently posited in a blog post “that the IOC’s primary reason for denying [women's ski jumping] entrance in time for the Vancouver Games is that the IOC doesn’t like to be told what to do, or when — not by anybody, including VANOC, and certainly not by a group of pesky women ski jumpers.”
This is likely true, and while it is not surprising for an organization steeped in tradition to resist change, it is extremely disappointing. The Olympics should be about passion, the pursuit of personal excellence, and the purity of sport. The Games, and sport in general, are already marred by doping issues, prima dona and poorly behaved athletes, and wanton commercialism. You would think the IOC would be in favor of promoting what is left of the true Olympic spirit. Instead they appear as misogynistic and power hungry old men.