Olympic organizers not wrong to keep female ski jumpers out of 2010, lawyers say

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VANCOUVER - A lawyer for Vancouver's Olympic organizing committee says organizers shouldn't have to be in court to explain why they can't - or won't - include women ski jumpers in the 2010 Games.
George Macintosh, the lawyer for the committee known as VANOC, said organizers have not done anything to violate Canada's Charter of Rights.
''VANOC didn't do anything to go offside the charter,'' Macintosh said.
''We shouldn't be here.''
A group of 15 former and current jumpers is suing the Vancouver organizing committee, saying their rights under the charter are being violated by their sport's exclusion from the Winter Games.
They argued in B.C. Supreme Court earlier this week that Games organizers must hold ski jumping for both genders or not hold the event at all.
But VANOC argues that although the committee receives government money and some government oversight, the Games are not a government activity so the charter doesn't apply.
And even if it did, Macintosh argued VANOC hasn't done anything wrong.
Renee Smith-Valade, vice-president of communications for VANOC, said outside court the committee understands the disappointment of the women ski jumpers at not being included in the Games.
''They are talented, committed and passionate athletes. If anyone understands Olympic dreams, we do at VANOC and we truly understand how frustrated they are and how disappointed they are,'' Smith-Valade said.
Organizers say that while they've supported the cause of women's ski jumping, their hands are tied when it comes to adding the event to the 2010 Games
It is the International Olympic Committee that has control over the Games and only the IOC can decide what sports are on the program, said Smith-Valade.
''Where we have the authority to help them and to move them along the road to 2014 and getting included in future Olympic Winter Games, we've done so,'' said Smith-Valade.
''We've accepted we are not the authority to make the decision as to whether or not they will be in the 2010 Winter Games sport program.''
According to facts provided by VANOC, the women have been provided free access to the Olympic ski jump venue near Whistler, B.C. for more than 1,000 training jumps in the last two seasons.
They've also been given the use of VANOC's vehicles for their training camps, special Olympic rates at hotels and VANOC has helped set up programs to get more women involved in the sport.
The International Olympic Committee voted in 2006 to keep women's ski jumping off the program for the 2010 Games, saying it wasn't developed enough to meet the criteria for inclusion at an Olympics.
The women argue that was pure discrimination because at the same time, women's ski cross was admitted even though that sport is less developed than ski jumping.
But ski cross was admitted under an IOC rule that all new sports added to the program after 1991 must have events for both genders. Ski jumping has been part of the Olympics since long before that date.
The IOC has declined to comment on the case, saying they stand by their original decision and are following the sport in the hopes it can be included in the future.

Organizations: International Olympic Committee, B.C. Supreme Court

Geographic location: VANCOUVER, Canada, Whistler

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