Why Aren’t Women Allowed to Ski Jump at the Olympics?

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Although you wouldn’t know it if you only follow winter sports during the Olympics, women do ski jump. In fact, it’s a standard part of the competitive circuit for women skiers. A women’s version of the jumping competition has been around for as long as women have been skiing competitively, but for some reason, the International Olympics Committee refuses not only to allow the sport but also to justify their position. The fact that they’re so closed-mouthed about this inequality leaves us to guess at their reasoning.

One thing’s for sure: The lack of women’s ski jumping in the Olympics is not due to lack of effort. Women ski jumpers have steadfastly petitioned the IOC for inclusion in every Olympics since 1998, and they have been denied every time. Today, ski jumping remains the only Olympic sport that hasn’t been opened up to both genders.

This is in spite of the IOC’s 1991 announcement that all new Olympic events were going to be open to both genders. The one hitch in this policy is that it would not apply to events that had already been established. Ski jumping goes back to the original games in 1924, so it certainly qualifies as one of the already-established events. Still, this doesn’t mean that the IOC shouldn’t simply apply its overall policy to one of its mainstay sports.

The lack of change has led many to allege that there is discrimination going on. Some have argued that the IOC is justified in leaving out women’s ski jumping because the sport doesn’t meet the IOC’s criterion having to do with the number of worldwide participants in the sport. While this sounds like it makes sense, some have pointed to the fact that ski cross, a recent addition to the games, has even fewer participants than women’s ski jumping, yet it was included without fuss.

Plus, the fact is that women’s ski jumping is big. There are over 100 women currently competing in worldwide ski jumping competitions, and among the top 30 jumpers there are contenders from 11 different countries—and that number is rising all the time. That’s why many feel that the IOC’s snub is at this point just out of spite. People in favor of the sport’s inclusion have become increasingly vocal in their criticism, and the IOC is a notoriously sensitive organization when it comes to public embarrassment. As a result, it’s anyone’s guess when they will come around.

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