Games Tarnished by Women's Exclusion
There’s a buzz in the air and it’s getting more noticeable by the day. You can’t ride the Skytrain, turn on the television, or walk into a mall without noticing the Olympics are going to be here awfully soon. On Saturday VANOC released another round of over 100,000 event tickets that saw people lined up in their virtual “waiting room” to get a chance to see our athletes compete next year.
But one event we’re now sure we won’t be getting a chance to see in Vancouver is women’s ski jumping.
In a rejection of women ski jumpers’ attempt to have VANOC recognize their sport, the BC Court of Appeal dismissed their last appeal on Friday. They were appealing a BC Supreme Court decision that stated that although the women were being discriminated against, the court had no jurisdiction over the International Olympic Committee as an international body.
Ski jumping is the only activity in the Winter Olympics that does not allow women to participate. The IOC made the decision in 2006 not to include women because they argue the sport has not met technical criteria, including that it may not have enough participants. However, over 130 women from 16 nations are registered as international competitors and hundreds more compete in local and national competitions. And the IOC has made exceptions to their criteria in the past, such as including the women’s marathon event in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics after only one World Championship.
So why is it that after every online article I’ve read on the story there are comments from people who argue sexism has nothing to do with it and who believe this whole dispute was started by feminists who want to make a big deal out of nothing.
So let’s take a look at the IOC’s position. Basically they’re saying they have nothing against women. As a matter of fact, the Olympic Charter states that part of the IOC’s mission is “to encourage and support the promotion of women in sport at all levels and in all structures with a view to implementing the principle of equality of men and women.” It’s just that the sport isn’t developed enough. But women jumpers point out part of the reason it may be underdeveloped is precisely because international bodies like the IOC aren’t taking it seriously. It’s a pretty circular argument: we haven’t recognized the sport so it’s stagnated, therefore we can continue not to recognize it.
And we can’t let VANOC off the hook entirely. After all, they state they opposed the IOC’s position but they didn’t strongly lobby the IOC to include women ski jumpers and they fought the women on the IOC’s behalf in the courts.
There’s no getting around the fact that public money is being used to put on an event that discriminates against women. And I don't think caring about that and wanting to value the work these amazing women have put into their sport is making a big deal about nothing.
Let’s hope these strong and skilled women continue the fight to 2014 and that the Olympics in Sochi, Russia will end up with a better record for equality than Vancouver's games will have.