VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - A Canadian appeals court on Friday dismissed a lawsuit by a coalition of women ski jumpers who wanted to have their sport included in next year’s Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
A three-judge panel unanimously rejected the women’s claim that local organizers were breaking Canada’s anti-discrimination laws by failing to hold ski jumping competitions for both men and women.
The panel upheld a lower court ruling that the International Olympic Committee (IOC), not the Vancouver Organizing Committee, decided what sports to include in the 2010 Olympics, and the IOC was not governed by Canadian law.
Ski jumping has been an Olympic sport since 1924, but is one of the few events in either the Winter or Summer Games that does not have competitions for men and women. All new sports allowed into the Games must be gender equal.
The IOC has refused to sanction women’s ski jumping in the Games, arguing that not enough women are competing in the sport worldwide for it to qualify as an Olympic event.
The group of 14 international former and current ski jumpers, denied the IOC’s claims, and argued more women were competing in ski jumping than in some other sports that have been included in the Olympics.
The British Columbia Court of Appeal panel issued the decision after a two-day court hearing in Vancouver. A written opinion with the full reasons for the ruling was expected to be released at a later date.
Vancouver Organizing Committee chief executive John Furlong said the court victory was bittersweet for local organizers, and they hoped that women’s ski jumping would be allowed by the IOC in future Olympics.
A representative of the women said they were very disappointed by the ruling. “They’re going to keep fighting until they make it into the Olympics,” Deborah Folka said.
Folka said they must wait until the appeals court issues its written ruling before deciding if they will take the case to Canada’s Supreme Court. That court would be unlikely to hear it before the Games begin on February 12.
Reporting by Allan Dowd, Editing by Julian Linden