VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - A coalition of women ski jumpers told a Canadian court on Monday that if they cannot compete in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver then men should not be allowed to either.
The athletes are suing organizers of the Vancouver Winter Games, saying the failure to allow both male and female ski jumping is based on inaccurate stereotypes about women and violates Canada’s anti-discrimination laws.
“It is a discriminatory affront to the human dignity of these plaintiffs and elite women ski jumpers across the world,” the women’s attorney, Ross Clark, told a British Columbia Supreme Court judge.
Ski jumping has been an Olympic sport since 1924, and is one of the few events in either the Winter or Summer Games to not have both a men’s and women’s competition.
The International Olympic Committee has refused to sanction a women’s ski jumping competition in the Games, arguing that not enough women are competing in the sport internationally for it to qualify as an Olympic-level event.
The group of North American and European women are suing the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) on the grounds that, as the domestic host and organizer of the Games, it is required to abide by Canadian law.
VANOC has said it sympathizes with the women’s situation, but says it has no choice but to follow the IOC’s rules, adding that, as an international organization, the IOC is not bound by Canada’s constitution.
The women asked the court on Monday to prohibit the Vancouver organizers from staging a men’s competition unless there is also a women’s event. It’s a legal maneuver they hope will indirectly force the IOC to reconsider its position.
Clark said the women don’t want to block the men from competing, but if the IOC and VANOC want keep ski-jumping as a men-only sport then the men’s competition will have to be held outside Canada.
A VANOC spokesman declined comment on the case on Monday. The organization’s attorneys are expected to present their arguments to the court starting on Wednesday.
The Olympic organizers have also said it could be too late to include the women in the Games, which begin next February, because the complex broadcasting schedule for all sports has already been completed.
Reporting Allan Dowd, editing by Rob Wilson