VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - There is still enough time for women’s ski jumping to make it into the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver even though a court has delayed hearing a legal challenge to the sport’s exclusion until next April, organizers of the lawsuit said on Tuesday.
The coalition of international female ski jumpers had hoped a Canadian court would hear their case by end of the year, but said hearing it in the spring will not be too late because they can compete on facilities already built for the men’s event.
Nearly all Olympic sports have both a men’s and women’s events, but the International Olympic Committee has always exempted ski jumping to let it be a male-only competition because they say there are not enough women in the sport.
The women have sued the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC), arguing it is violating Canadian civil rights law by abiding by IOC’s decision. They have not sued the IOC directly because it is not Canadian-based.
“VANOC has already said that if this decision is made in favor of the women, they will accommodate the women... we do not think it is too late,” said Deedee Corradini, president of Women’s Ski-Jumping USA.
VANOC says it sympathizes with the women and had asked the IOC to allow female ski jumping in 2010, but it has no choice but to follow the international group’s ruling on what sports are allowed.
“The IOC has given us instructions for the final sports schedule. We moved ahead to confirm transportation, ticketing, and all of the logistics that go into a final sport schedule and women’s ski jumping is not on it,” said VANOC spokeswoman Rene Smith-Valade.
Corradini said there have been last-minute schedule changes for the Olympics before.
“We know tickets (for other 2010 sports) are on sale now, but our feeling is if this makes it, it will make such news that people are going to want to come even if we have to pass out hand-made tickets on street corners,” she said.
IOC chairman Jacques Rogge said in February that only 80 women were competing in the sport, far fewer than for other Olympic sports, and including it in the 2010 Games would dilute the value of medals won in other events.
But the lawsuit’s backers say the IOC has understated the number of women competing in the sport, and there are more female ski jumpers than women participating in sports such as ski-cross that are included in the Games.
VANOC says it is encouraging the women to convince the IOC to allow them into the 2014 Olympics and helping that effort by allowing them to train at the facilities built for the 2010 Games.
Reporting Allan Dowd, Editing by Richard Valdmanis