Women Lose Bid To Ski Jump At Olympics A Canadian judge rules that even though excluding female ski jumpers from the 2010 Winter Olympics amounts to discrimination, there is nothing Canadian courts can do about it. In their lawsuit, 15 women had argued that the men-only event violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
NPR logo

Women Lose Bid To Ski Jump At Olympics

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/106486162/106491816" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Women Lose Bid To Ski Jump At Olympics

Women Lose Bid To Ski Jump At Olympics

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/106486162/106491816" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And finally this hour, from TV rights to ski jumpers' rights. Ski jumping is the last Winter Olympic event closed to women, and for now it will stay closed. That's what a Canadian court concluded today in a lawsuit by women ski jumpers. The court did say that the exclusion of women is discriminatory but that the court is powerless to do anything about it. NPR's Howard Berkes explains.

HOWARD BERKES: The record for the longest ski jump at one of the Vancouver Olympic hills is actually held by a woman, but she'll have to watch from the sidelines as men try to eclipse her record at February's Winter Olympics.

That's because a justice for the British Columbia Supreme Court says Canadian law has no remedy for this kind of discrimination. Margot Young teaches constitutional and equality law at the University of British Columbia.

Ms. MARGOT YOUNG (Teacher, University of British Columbia): And the judge states here that the discrimination is by the International Olympic Committee, the IOC, not by the local Vancouver organizing committee, VANOC. And because the IOC is not subject to the Canadian charter, the judge has no jurisdiction over it. There's no remedy, and there's therefore no finding of discrimination under the charter for the women ski jumpers.

BERKES: The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms prohibits sex-based discrimination by government entities or groups working on behalf of government. The court concluded that Vancouver Olympic organizers are facilitating a public function, but the International Olympic Committee sets the Olympic schedule, and only the IOC can change it.

It's a mixed decision for Deedee Corradini, the former mayor of Salt Lake City who led the effort to get women ski jumpers into the Olympics.

Former Mayor DEEDEE CORRADINI (Salt Lake City, Utah): There is a moral victory here, though, I think, in that the justice said that it is very clear that the International Olympic Committee is discriminating against these women, and that's what we've been contending all along. So our hope is that the IOC will admit that this is discrimination and end it. The time has come.

BERKES: In a written statement, the IOC said it's pleased the games can continue as scheduled, but strongly disagrees with the conclusion that it is guilty of discrimination. The decision was based on technical issues, the statement said.

In the past, the IOC has said the sport doesn't have enough competitors and countries competing. The Canadian judge addressed that directly, saying men would also be excluded if they were held to the same criteria. Men benefit from a grandfather clause because men's ski jumping has been in the winter Olympics from the very beginning.

Anita DeFrantz is a former Olympic athlete and veteran IOC member from the United States.

Ms. ANITA DEFRANTZ (International Olympic Committee): I just don't know why this is kind of the last step, that, you know, why it's so hard to take. There are women athletes there who deserve to show their skills and accomplishments as the men do on the Olympic platform.

BERKES: The woman who holds the distance record for one of the Olympic jumps outside Vancouver, doesn't think she can hold out for the next winter games in 2014. Twenty-four-year-old American Lindsey Van says exclusion from the Olympics means it's hard to get the support athletes need to continue to train and compete.

Ms. LINDSEY VAN: When you get into a sport of this caliber at a high level, usually people are making money through sponsors, but it's hard to get a sponsor if you're not in the Olympics.

BERKES: Van and the 14 other women trying to jump in the Olympics say they're considering an appeal.

Howard Berkes, NPR News.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.