Monday, February 15, 2010

Why Isn’t There Women’s Ski Jumping At The Winter Olympics?

The Winter Olympics are underway, and so to are the articles by sports columnists picking apart the Winter Games, like this one from Jeff Neuman of RealClearSports that asks: “Who Killed the Winter Olympics?” Neuman argues that the Winter Games have become a bloated, and ultimately not terribly interesting mess of events.

I can’t say that I totally agree with Neuman, but his column made me think about this report I saw this past weekend on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” about women’s ski jumping, or rather the lack of women’s ski jumping at the Olympics. Even though men’s ski jumping has been included in all 21 Winter Games, the women’s side of the sport is excluded. In fact, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has actively fought to keep the sport out of the Games, a group of women jumpers even tried, and failed, to sue the Vancouver Games organizing committee to force them to include their sport in this year’s Games.

According to IOC chief Jacques Rogge, the reason that women’s ski jumping isn’t included within the Olympic canon is because the relatively small number of women competing at the elite level of the sport – around 170 – would “dilute” the significance of the Olympic gold medal if it was awarded in this discipline. But ESPN notes that an even smaller number of women (about 125) are currently competing at the elite level in the relatively new sport of ski cross, yet their sport was included in the 2010 Games. Ski cross is the ski version of another fairly new sport, board cross – a seeming combination of downhill racing and roller derby, whose only Olympic moment of note so far has been the United States’ Lindsey Jacobellis hot-dogging her way out of a gold medal in the 2006 Games.

And that gets back to Neuman’s point. Traditionally the Winter Olympics were a collection of Alpine and ice sports largely dominated by a collection of northern European countries. In recent years though the Games have expanded to take in a whole collection of new winter sports (like ski/board cross), mostly created in the United States and not surprisingly dominated by American athletes. This may be good business for the IOC since massive US television contracts provide a large chunk of the their revenues, but it hasn’t necessarily improved the quality of the Games.

Of course adding in women’s ski jumping would be a simple matter of scheduling additional elements at facilities that would otherwise sit unused, it doesn’t require building entire new venues like has been the case for the snowboarding events. But it would also likely not bring any additional medals for the United States, and that’s why you probably won’t see women ski jumping at the Games anytime soon.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'd love to respond (properly) to this with my own take of the Winter Olympics, but I have not the time to do it up right ( you get two minutes worth) ... suffice it to say, I love ... love the W.O. BUT ... I am feeling so cheated right now at this watering down of the games.

Jacobellis fails to make it out of her semis. Good. Suck on your showboating another four years. It should have meant more to you then. It WILL matter more in 2014 when you actually win a gold. Even the "X-Games" have to conform to the every four years is special rule.

Pairs skating - Wtf happened? I remember growing up with 4-5 pairs skating flawlessly and it being decided by corrupt judges. It's more of joke now when half of the pairs can't complete it without a fall. Take the deductions if you can't do the trick, just do it clean.... See More

And when did the music become just background music? Skate to the music, or change the music ... or your skating .... Pure crap ....