The following is an open letter to Dr. Jacques Rogge, President of the IOC, from the women ski jumpers in response to recent public remarks Dr. Rogge made about women’s ski jumping at a press conference. Below the letter is a transcript from the press conference.
Dear Dr. Rogge:
We were very dismayed by the way you elected to answer a question about women’s ski jumping asked of you last week at a press conference on December 10 in Lausanne. You compared women ski jumpers to their male counterparts – both as athletes in terms of performance and as individual events within the sport of ski jumping. As you are well aware, men and women athletes do not compete against one another. They compete within their gender – men against men and women against women.
Would you compare Usain Bolt to Florence Griffith-Joyner? Catriona Le May-Doan to Sven Kramer? Lindsey Vonn to Bode Miller? Olympic gold medalist for women’s hockey Hayley Wickenheiser is never compared to male hockey legend Wayne Gretzky. These athletes are all admired and respected for their achievements against same-gender competitors.
You pointed out there are so few women ski jumpers active at the world championship level and you compared that disparagingly to “thousands of male ski jumpers.” You neglected to mention that those male ski jumpers have participated in the Olympics since 1924, guaranteeing those men funding from their governments, their sports federations and support from trainers, coaches and sponsors, not to mention a fan base that has increased awareness of ski jumping as a sports opportunity for men. Women’s ski jumping, as a sport, has never had the same level of support and as a consequence has not been able to develop at the same rate as men’s ski jumping.
Even in 1991, when the IOC agreed to allow for the inclusion of both men’s and women’s events in all new sports at the Olympic Games, women’s ski jumping was puzzlingly left off the list. Isn’t it also significant that in 2006 FIS recommended our inclusion in the Olympics by a 114-1 vote?
It is far more reasonable to compare us to the numbers of women in facility-based winter sports like bobsleigh, skeleton, luge, skier cross and snowboard cross. In 2006, when you denied our inclusion for the 2010 Vancouver Games, 83 women from 14 nations competed at the elite level in ski jumping, according to our sports federation FIS. Hundreds more competed in their own countries at the national and club levels.
By comparison, at the time of their inclusion, only 34 women from 10 nations competed at the elite level in snowboard cross and 30 women from 11 nations in ski cross. You added women’s snowboard cross to the Olympics for 2006 and skier cross for 2010. Shouldn’t the same concern you expressed for “dilution of medals” apply to these sports? If you compare the numbers of women and countries competing at the elite level in luge, bobsleigh and skeleton during the 2006/2007 season, when we were denied entry, ski jumping had more women and countries at the elite level than those sports as well.
It’s time to admit there is no reasonable excuse for excluding women’s ski jumping from the Olympics. This has been found to be discriminatory under the laws of Canada and we are seeking leave to argue our case at the Supreme Court of Canada.
Against tremendous opposition and well-documented discrimination, we have still achieved amazing results for our sport. We love what we do, we know we do it well and we know there are enough of us to stage an exciting and competitive event in Vancouver 2010.
Anette Sagen, Norway, Ulrike Graessler, Germany, Jenna Mohr, Germany, Monica Planic, Slovenia, Lindsey Van, USA, Jessica Jerome, USA, Karla Keck, USA, Katie Willis, Canada, Canada, Meaghan Reid, Canada, Zoya Lynch, Canada, Jade Edwards, Canada, Nata de Leeuw, Canada, Charlotte Mitchell, Canada
PRESS CONFERENCE BY IOC PRESIDENT JACQUES ROGGE
DEC. 10, 2009
To view the press conference question, go to http://www.olympic.org/en/content/Media/?articleNewsGroup=-1&articleId=75396 and click to start the video. It’s the last question and you can skip to “13:40” on the timer.
David Miller, freelance: Can you remind or explain, I’m not sure at point there was if any explanation given the principle for developing women’s participation — what was the EB’s stance on the rejection of women’s applications to be involved in ski jumping in Vancouver.
IOC President Jacques Rogge: That is very clear. You do not have to mix two different issues. If we have more women’s events, we accept women’s event when the quality is there. The issue is that in women’s jumping we considered that there was too few international jumpers to award three Olympic medals. We did not want the medals to be watered down by too little a pool of very good jumpers.
There are approximately 164 (inaudible) women jumping around the world at International Skiing Federation. More than 2,500 men are jumping. So you can see the difference. In jumping competition there is clearly for women two groups — there is a group of about 15 women, technically very able, jumping well. And a second group that is quite far from them.
If you look at the difference and distance from No. 1 and No. 15 in men, distance is very short. In women you have far bigger distances. In some cases, you have more than 40 percent distance from the first one. So we had considered that there wasn’t enough quality at the time. But we are considering definitely to include them in Sochi should the progress they are making continue. We include them also in the first Winter Olympic Youth Games in Innsbruck in 2012. So I think that generation will hopefully be jumping in Sochi.
Miller: Are you worried about the possibility of an Edwina Edwards?
Rogge: I think in the Olympic Games, that eagles don’t fly anymore.