The group of female ski jumpers, including Lindsey Van, Jessica Jerome, Ulrike Grassler, Daniela Iraschko, Jenna Mohr and Anette Sagen have filed a lawsuit against the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) for the 2010 Olympics because they want to see their sport included in the Games.
“I am here today because I feel I have a moral responsibility to make things right,” – U.S. ski jumper Jessica Jerome said Thursday at a press conference.
“Over the years I have seen many talented young women quit (ski jumping) because there was no higher level, there was nothing to strive for.”
On Wednesday, the group filed a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court arguing that if they’re excluded from the Olympics then the men’s competition should also be cancelled.
A lawyer for the group told CTV British Columbia that a court injunction may be the only way to fix what the jumpers say is discrimination.
Ross Clark said the absence of a women’s competition is a violation of Canada’s equality rights, which is guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights.
While the Charter normally regulates only government actions, the suit claims the Olympics should be included because various levels of government are involved.
For example, in addition to the money spent on the Games, VANOC is subject to regular governmental review, and has government positions on its board of directors, the suit claims.
Along with Jerome, the jumpers included in the suit are Anette Sagen from Norway, Daniela Iraschko from Austria, Jenna Mohr from Germany, Karla Keck from Wisconsin, Ulrike Grassler from Germany, Monika Planinc from Slovenia and Lindsey Van from Utah,
The International Olympic Committee says it’s holding a men’s only competition in 2010 because the women’s sport is not developed enough.
An IOC official, speaking to Reuters on Thursday, said the committee’s position “has not changed” despite the lawsuit.
VANOC says it has no influence in the matter.
“We’ve always said that if the IOC made a decision to include women’s ski jumping we would be able to accommodate it. So our position hasn’t changed,” spokesperson Cathy Priestner said Wednesday.
CTV Olympic host Brian Williams said the IOC should at least make women’s ski jumping a “demonstration sport” in Vancouver.
Demonstration sports, suspended in 1992 from Olympic Games, allow events to be showcased but medals don’t officially count.
“Get them started on the road somewhere and what better place to do it than in Vancouver,” Williams told CTV Newsnet on Thursday.
But Lindsey Van said the women who filed the lawsuit want to participate fully.
“(A demonstration sport is) not good enough. Why would we be there just to just demonstrate when we’re fully ready to be a medal sport,” she told CTV Newsnet Thursday evening.
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.