Lose the Battle, Win the War

April 7, 2011

In December 2009, a public opinion poll found that 73 per cent of Canadians supported including women’s ski jumping in the Olympics, specifically the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. That month, a group of female ski jumper’s asked the Supreme Court of Canada to rule on the British Columbia Supreme Court ruling that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not apply to the selection of Olympic sports. The B.C. Court ruled that while it found the exclusion of women’s ski jumping to be discriminatory it did not have the authority to force the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to include the event in the Games. The Supreme Court of Canada ultimately refused to hear the appeal.

The decision of the B.C. Court and the lead up to the ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada on the appeal created a significant amount of media and public attention around the issue. It certainly caught the IOC’s attention. The IOC defended its decision on technical grounds citing in particular the “depth of field” argument (this is the same argument currently swirling around whether or not to continue to include women’s hockey in the Olympics).

At a meeting yesterday in London, England, the IOC approved women’s ski jumping for inclusion in the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia. I suspect the depth of field has not changed a whole lot since December 2009, but the IOC’s sensitivity to gender equality perhaps has. The efforts of the women ski jumpers who pursued this cause in 2009 must be congratulated for their relentless efforts back then and for the resulting controversy they stirred up around the IOC’s decision. While those crusaders lost the battle in 2009, they should take great pride in knowing that their efforts were instrumental in women’s ski jumping’s inclusion in the Olympics – ultimately winning the war yesterday.