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Olympic Org. Defends Dissing Women Jumpers

The International Olympic Committee insists that its choice to exclude women's ski jumping at the 2010 Winter Games is based on "technical merit" and isn't discriminatory.

"The IOC would like to stress again the decision not to include women's ski jumping has been taken purely on technical merit," Emmanuelle Moreau, the IOC's media relations manager, said in an e-mail to The Canadian Press on Wednesday. "Any reference to the fact that this is a matter about gender equality is totally inappropriate and misleading."

The Canadian government said Tuesday it will try to persuade the IOC to include the sport at the Vancouver Games. The move came as part of a settlement reached after a group of female ski jumpers filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The ski jumpers argued that being denied the chance to compete at the Olympics was discriminatory.

"The IOC would like to underline that it understands the heartfelt emotion with which the Canadian women's ski jumpers are so keen to compete at their home games in Vancouver in 2010," Moreau said. "This desire is natural, as is the support of this wish by the Canadian government and Canadians throughout the country.

"However, decisions to include an event at the Olympic Games are taken on technical merit and with a global perspective. ... With too few athletes competing in this event, and no world championships until one year before the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games, women's ski jumping does not reach the necessary technical criteria and as such does not yet warrant a place alongside other Olympic events. With the technical merit of the event unchanged, the decision taken in November 2006 stands."

The IOC voted in 2006 to not allow women's ski jumping into the 2010 Games, saying the sport has not yet developed enough and that it didn't meet basic criteria for inclusion.

To be considered for inclusion in an Olympic Games, a sport must have held at least two world championships. The first women's ski jumping world championships will be held next year in Liberec, Czech Republic.

The Olympic charter also prohibits new sports from being added within four years of a Games.

Supporters of women's ski jumpers argue there are 135 women ski jumpers in 16 countries. This compares to other sports already in the Games like snowboard cross, which has 34 women from 10 countries, skier cross, which has 30 women from 11 nations, and bobsled, which has 26 women from 13 nations.

They also argue that women's marathon was added to the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles after a single world championship in 1983.

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