The group of teenaged female athletes trying to force the International Olympic Committee to add women's ski jumping to the 2010 Vancouver Games is trying to enter the competition through "the back door," Dick Pound, Canada's senior Olympic official, said yesterday.
"Instead of wasting their money on human-rights cases, they'd be better off hiring some coaches and convincing people to build programs for women rather than trying to do something through the back door," said Mr. Pound, a member of the IOC, the Canadian Olympic Committee and Vancouver's Olympics organizing committee.
He said he was describing his personal reaction to a human-rights case launched 11 months ago by the female ski jumpers, which sought to force the International Olympic Committee to add women's ski jumping to the Vancouver Games or have Ottawa finance an equivalent event in the same year, as well as offering training funds.
The federal government yesterday confirmed a Globe and Mail report that a settlement has been reached in that case.
Neither party is disclosing what was agreed on in mediated talks; however, one remedy outlined in the case is the federal government pushing the IOC to reverse its decision.
But Mr. Pound warned of a "nightmare scenario" in which a federal Canadian court might order the IOC to override its technical rules and include women's ski jumping, or cancel the 2010 Olympics.
"In which case, the IOC would say, if you don't want the Games, you don't have to have the Games," he said. "By the way, don't ever apply again to get the Games."
The federal government has given no indication it is prepared to take such a dramatic step, although David Emerson, the senior minister responsible for the 2010 Games, said on the weekend that he found it "extremely disappointing" that women are not allowed to compete in ski jumping.
He promised to raise the matter with Helena Guergis, Minister of State for Sport, when he returns from a two-week trade mission in Asia.
Ms. Guergis was not available for comment yesterday, but her spokesman, Jeffrey Kroecker, said the government "remains a strong and vocal supporter for equality in sport."
Jan Willis, the chief complainant and mother of ski jumper Katie Willis, could not be reached for comment yesterday, but in an interview late Sunday she was optimistic that the compromise would address her concerns."We're all hoping it will be positive."
The details of the agreement need to be ratified by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, and both parties have agreed not to discuss specifics until the deal is announced.
Another remedy outlined in the complaint is for the federal government to fund an international-level women's competition in 2010 as an alternative to an Olympic event. However, any such move would have to take into consideration the IOC's stipulation that no rival international competitions take place in the vicinity of the Games.
While the complaint alleges that the IOC has violated Canadian values of gender equity, Mr. Pound said the decision to reject women's ski jumping in the 2010 Games flowed from the technical requirements of the IOC, and that the committee has made great efforts to embrace events for female athletes. "We've bent the rules more often with respect to women's events than others."
Women's ski jumping, he said, is simply not yet developed enough for Olympic competition.