Women want ski jumping at '10 Games

Updated: July 9, 2009, 9:28 PM ET
Associated Press

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The British Columbia Supreme Court will hand down a decision Friday that could lead to women's ski jumping being included in the 2010 Winter Olympics, or it could result in the International Olympic Committee moving the men's event to another venue.

A group of 15 former and current women jumpers have argued that not being allowed to compete at the Vancouver Games violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The women are seeking a court declaration that the Vancouver Olympic Games Organizing Committee, known as VANOC, must either hold women's ski jumping in 2010 or no ski jumping events at all.

Women's ski jumping has never been an Olympic event.

"They say simply, if you're going to have a men's event, then you have to have a women's event," Ross Clark, the lawyer representing the women, said Thursday.

Clark wouldn't speculate on what the decision might be.

VANOC also declined comment.

"We have been advised that the decision will be made public tomorrow and out of respect for the court process we will decline comment until after we receive the decision," Renee Smith-Valade, VANOC's vice president of communications, said in a release.

One of the issues Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon must decide is whether the Charter applies to VANOC.

VANOC has argued the government doesn't exert enough control over the committee to allow the court to consider if providing the Games is a government service and, therefore, the Charter doesn't apply.

VANOC has also said it's the IOC that decides which sports are allowed at an Olympics and the IOC isn't governed by Canadian law.

The IOC maintains women ski jumpers are being prevented from competing at the Games because they didn't meet Olympic criteria, not because of gender discrimination.

The women argue their sport has developed to the level required by the IOC so they should be included in the Games.

Even if the judge decides the women have been discriminated against, it's not an automatic green light to go to the Olympics.

"I would expect that VANOC would then have to go back to the IOC and say `it's against the law and we can't break domestic law," Clark said.

Then the issue falls in the IOC's lap.

"They have a number of alternatives," said Clark. "They could move the men's event to a jurisdiction that is more amendable to discrimination."

The IOC could even decide to cancel all the ski jumping events.

There also is the possibility of appeal from both sides in the case.

The Games are scheduled for Feb. 12-28.

"This decision is coming down in a time frame that allows VANOC to accommodate us if it is in our favor," said Clark.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press