Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Jumping into the last hurdle

Last week women lost the bid to Ski Jump at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) based the decision on 'technical issues' not gender. Reporting that not enough women are competing and too few countries. Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, said that allowing women to ski jump would dilute the medals being handed out. However, with this being the last winter sport that women are not allowed to compete in, and the IOC having only one woman on their board, its hard not to think of gender.

The British Columbia Supreme Court ruled that it is discriminatory not to allow women to ski jump. Unfortunately even though the 2010 Olympics are in Canada, the final say is up to the IOC. What is so crazy is that the ski jumper who holds the distance record on the K95 "normal hill" in Vancouver is a woman, Lidsey Van.

This is certainly not the first time the IOC has challenged women. In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, women underwent 'gender tests' to prove they were woman enough to compete. What is most appalling (other than the fact the IOC deems this necessary) is that women only took the 'gender test' if they were suspected by their external appearances. Beware future sport stars, the IOC wants its female athletes feminine.

And if you are transgender and trying to compete, well that's a whole other story. While the committee said transgender athletes can compete if they meet certain requirements, some of the requirements are completing genital reconstructive surgery and at least two years of hormonal therapy. I do applaud the IOC for at least acknowledging transgender athletes, but there is a long way to go.

Reconstructive surgery is costly and complicated, turning the IOC's demand into a class issue (whether you can afford the surgery or not). Also it is once again very clear that the IOC cares as much about the outward appearance of its athletes as the biological facts (hormonal therapy is what actually affects athletes).

The Olympic athletes are amazing, and its great that the world has an organization devoted to showing off their talents. Seeing that we continually expect the best from the Olympic athletes, we should also expect the best from the Olympic committee.

---Photo (Douglas C. Pizac/The Associated Press )

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