The following is a letter sent to Dr. Jacques Rogge, president of the IOC, from the elite women ski jumpers seeking inclusion in the 2010 Olympics.
September 4, 2009
Dear Dr. Rogge:
We appreciate the International Olympic Committee’s prompt response to our letter seeking a resolution to the issue of us competing in the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games. But we are disappointed that the letter appears to be silent in recognizing the inconsistency of this decision with the IOC’s stated values and the laws of Canada regarding equal treatment of people in society and in sport. Specifically, we do not understand the phrase “technical merit.” What criteria have we failed to meet? How do the criteria you want us to meet compare with the criteria set for other sports which already include women such as skier cross, snowboard cross, luge, bobsleigh and skeleton?
We are seeking what all people committed to the Olympic ideal seek: the opportunity to compete fairly and without prejudice of any kind. Specifically, we seek to compete at an officially sanctioned event at the 2010 Olympics.
The IOC’s inclusion of women’s ski jumping as an event in the Youth Olympics in 2012 is a wonderful initiative, however only one of our group competing internationally under FIS will be eligible. This gesture, however helpful, does not address what we believe to be VANOC’s legal obligations under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, nor the obligations to women athletes codified in the IOC Charter.
Likewise, yesterday’s announcement by FIS that it is recommending our inclusion in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia is encouraging. But in 2006 FIS recommended – by an overwhelming 114-1 vote – our inclusion in 2010 and the IOC rejected the recommendation. We are concerned that history will be repeated. It is difficult to bear such repeated disappointment when we have worked so hard to qualify as Olympians.
Last spring, Chicago Tribune sportswriter Philip Hersch wrote an article contrasting our exclusion with the inclusion of women pole-vaulters for the first time in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He addressed the issue of “technical merit” and concluded it was subjective when applied to the Olympic ideals of higher, stronger, faster.
“Go deep into the results of the 30 competitors in Sydney, and you will find that an 18-year-old Russian was among four women who failed three times to clear her first height, 13 feet, 1 1/2 inches, nearly two feet below the eventual winning height of U.S. vaulter Stacy Dragila. On the surface, one might think that showed that the field had to be padded with vaulters who didn’t belong… the 18-year-old Russian vaulter has done pretty well since 2000, when she was motivated by a failure that made her seem unqualified for the Summer Games. Her record? Two Olympic gold medals, five world titles, 26 world records and the 10 highest leaps in history, topping out at 16 feet, 6 3/4 inches. “Where you start,” this vaulter has said, “isn’t necessarily where you end up.”
The current position of the IOC puts VANOC, which is carrying out a government activity in hosting the games, in an impossible position. VANOC has been instructed to organize and carry out a men’s ski jumping event, but in doing so we believe it breaches Canadian law by not hosting events for both men and women. Should the BC Court of Appeal confirm this in November, VANOC would be forced to decline to carry out the men’s event in order to ensure equality under the Canadian Charter of Rights.
VANOC has stated publicly they will do everything possible to ensure the women’s event is executed in a manner consistent with Olympic standards of excellence. Thus, we believe the ingredients for a reasonable solution are at hand:
• Elite women ski jumpers from around the world are ready;
• Facilities supported by Canadian tax payers and provided by VANOC are available;
• An organizing committee committed to executing the event is confirmed and;
• Good will in the spirit of everything the Olympics embodies and strives to encourage in our society is about to captivate the world.
We look forward to your response to our specific query about ‘technical merit’ and to celebrating our inclusion in 2010 with you.
Anette Sagen, Norway, Ulrike Graesler, Germany, Jenna Mohr, Germany, Monica Planic, Slovenia, Lindsey Van, USA, Jessica Jerome, USA, Karla Keck, USA, Katie Willis, Canada, Marie-Pierre Morin, Canada, Meaghan Reid, Canada, Zoya Lynch, Canada, Jade Edwards, Canada, Nata de Leeuw, Canada, Charlotte Mitchell