World champion Laurence Vincent-Lapointe is fighting to be included in the 2016 Olympics (Associated Press pho …There is no real reason, other than systemic discrimination, why the Olympics still has more events for men than for women. At least that's the point a group of women's canoe racers, including Canadians such as world champion Laurence Vincent-Lapointe, are hoping to prove when they take London 2012 to court over their exclusion from the Games.
As David Ebner reported in The Globe & Mail, on Thursday British canoe racer Samantha Ripplington is filing a court challenge in London against the organizers of the Games. Unlike the highly publicized court challenge launched in Canada to get women's ski jumping added to the Vancouver Games (the plaintiffs won on principle but didn't get into the Games; the IOC has added it for 2014), this legal fight is more macro than micro.
At the London Games, of 10,500 or so athletes, 40 per cent are women. It is a gap that continues from Beijing in 2008, when there were almost 40 more events for men than women (165 to 127).
And even where there is progress, there is disparity. women's boxing is new to the Olympics but there are only three weight classes, compared with 10 for men.
"It's actually incredible, the inequalities, it's unbelievable," Rippington said in an interview Wednesday from outside Paris, where she is training. "We're going for the whole Olympic program — not just canoeing. Until everyone realizes it's not fair."
Canada has been a major part of a long-time push for women's canoe and has some of the sport's best athletes.A team at Queen's University's law school helped develop the legal material to support Rippington's claim. Law professor Kathleen Lahey has led a team of researchers, students and colleagues over the past two years, work that began as the women's ski jumpers case in Canada fizzled. (The Globe & Mail)
It is a good philosophical question — in 2012, is there really a rational reason to offer fewer events for women in disciplines such as sailing, shooting and rowing? The IOC prefers to move rather glacially on gender equity, but the women competing in those sports — who likely already had to fight through the still-prevalent social stigmas of competing in something perceived as manly or a male preserve — only have a few years to take a shot at being the best in the world.
The IOC won't be bound by a judicial review should Ripplington, et al., succeed, but being taken to court right in the Games host city is very bad publicity. It's also British tabloid dynamite, an easy cause to get behind. This gets at the heart of discrimination a little more than stories about which country flew its men's basketball or soccer team to London in business class while the more successful women's team made the long trip in economy (shame on you, Australia and Japan). Flying "premium economy" from Down Under to London while the men fly first-class does suck to some extent for the taller women's basketball players and should be rectified. It's not as bad as being excluded outright, though.
The canoe racers are going about this differently than the women's ski jumpers did before Vancouver, but that earlier court challenge ultimately succeeded. The IOC has added women's ski jump, just like it did come around eventually on allowing women to go for gold in bobsled, boxing, wrestling, steeplechase and the marathon. People will complain the Summer Games, with nearly 300 events, is getting too big, but why should constraints come at the expense of one gender?
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.