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VANOC wins BC Supreme Court case over Women's ski jump

VANCOUVER - Women will not ski jump at the 2010 Winter Olympics, a British Columbia Supreme Court judge decided on Friday.

Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon wrote that the 2006 International Olympic Committee decision against adding a women's division was discriminatory, but it did not breach Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms' gender equality guarantees.

"There will be little solace to the plaintiffs in my finding that they have been discriminated against; there is no remedy available to them in this Court," Fenlon wrote. "But this is the outcome I must reach because the discrimination that the plaintiffs are experiencing is the result of the actions of a non-party (IOC) which is neither subject to the jurisdiction of this Court nor governed by the Charter."

Fenlon presided over a five-day hearing in B.C. Supreme Court that ended April 24.

George Macintosh, lawyer for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games' Organizing Committee, successfully argued the IOC controls the Games and VANOC has no right to ask the IOC to add a women’s ski jumping medal event. In 2006, the IOC opted to only add ski cross, which was popularized in the ESPN X-Games.

Ross Clark, the lawyer for 15 international female ski jumpers, sought a declaration that VANOC is government-controlled and all aspects of the Games should be subject to the Charter.

Fenlon found that VANOC is subject to the Charter when it carries out the planning, organizing, financing and staging of the 2010 Games, but it is not government-controlled.

"While the governments are kept informed about financial matters and some have direct involvement with the venue contracts and significant budget decisions, they do not have routine daily control over VANOC's finances," Fenlon found.

She also disagreed that the IOC intentionally discriminated against the women. The Olympic Charter, she wrote, encourages and supports the "promotion of women in sport at all levels."

Calgary's Jan Willis, the mother of Canadian ski jumper Katie Willis, complained to the Canadian Human Rights Commission in early 2007. The Canadian government agreed in a 2008 settlement that it would lobby the IOC on the ski jumpers’ behalf. Then-minister of state for sport Helena Guergis never met with IOC president Jacques Rogge.

Women’s Ski Jumping USA, a group led by former Salt Lake City Mayor Deedee Corradini, filed a lawsuit against VANOC in May 2008. Active Canadian ski jumpers joined the lawsuit last fall and winter.

A men's ski jumping preliminary is the first sporting event of the Games on Feb. 12, 2010 at the $122.4 million, taxpayer-funded Whistler Olympic Park in the Callaghan Valley.

Bob Mackin reports for Vancouver 24 hours.

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