Women ski jumpers say their court case is historic

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VANCOUVER - The fight to include women's ski jumping at the 2010 Games has the potential to advance the cause of women in the Olympic movement as a whole, advocates for the female athletes say.
Fifteen women are suing 2010 organizers claiming their Charter rights are being violated because male jumpers are allowed to compete in the Olympics and they aren't.
The case, which began Monday in B.C. Supreme Court, has attracted worldwide interest, including at least four documentary crews.
Despite a year's worth of media, some of the plaintiffs still seemed a bit overwhelmed by all of the attention, but said they're committed to the fight.
"I don't feel like I'm going against the Olympics, I feel like I'm fighting for the Olympics, for more events to be added," said Lindsay Van, the reining world champion of women's ski jump.
The International Olympic Committee voted in 2006 to keep women's ski jumping off the program for the 2010 Games, but at the same time, women's ski cross was admitted.
The contrast between the level of women's participation in the ski cross versus ski jumping suggests there is nothing behind the IOC's decision but pure discrimination, said Deedee Corradini, the former mayor of Salt Lake City, who is also a spokesperson for the women
"Just look at the data. At the time the IOC told these women no, we had 83 women from 14 nations competing at the elite level," she said.
"Ski cross had 30 women from 11 nations."
Women's ski cross was allowed in because of a 1991 rule that all new sports added to the Olympic program had to include both women and men's events.
Ski jumping is not a new sport but one of the oldest ones at the Games.
Corradini said a victory at court would embolden the cause of female athletes in the Olympic movement because even in the sports open to both genders, there are far fewer events for women than for men.
According to IOC statistics, at the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin, women participated in 40 out of 84 events.
They'll participate in the same number of events at the 2010 Games.
While the case is about discrimination, the arguments will turn on whether the local organizing committee, known as VANOC, is subject to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
VANOC has declined to comment at all on the case, but in their 123 page argument filed last week, the committee declared they are not subject to the Charter and even if they were, the decision on what sports to include at the Games isn't up to them.
Prior cases have determined that in order for a non-government agency to be covered by the Charter, it must be proven that the government has regular and routine control over the group in question.
The women argue that VANOC is serving a government function so should fall under the Charter.
They point to the government funding VANOC receives, the presence of government-appointed members of the committee's board and the promises the government has made for helping stage the Games.
Their argument also states that VANOC called themselves a government-controlled corporation more than 170 times while applying for trademark protection.
The committee's in-house lawyer, Ken Bagshaw, has now said that statement was false, according to the women's argument.
VANOC is expected to begin arguing their case on Wednesday, but in documents already filed in court they say the test in the trademark application is different than that required by the Charter.
The committee also argues it is not under control of government, but of the IOC and liken the relationship to that of a company and franchisee.

Organizations: Charter, International Olympic Committee, B.C. Supreme Court Olympic Games Rights

Geographic location: VANCOUVER, Salt Lake City, Turin

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