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IOC delays decisions on ski jumping, ski halfpipe



Female ski jumpers, ski halfpipe athletes and others will have to wait until this time next year before they know if they'll be included in the 2014 Winter Games.

At the recent International Olympic Committee meeting in Mexico, the executive board decided to wait until after the 2011 World Championships before making a decision on the addition of new sports to the calendar for the 2014 Games. Sochi, the 2014 host city, would also have to approve the additions.

The only sport to get a ruling, in this case a "no," was a proposed team alpine skiing event that was showcased at the World Championships in 2009.

The list of sports still being considered includes women's ski jumping, ski halfpipe, ski slopestyle, snowboard slopestyle, biathlon mixed team relay, a figure skating team event and a luge team relay.

According to the IOC, they are looking for youth appeal, gender equity and universality.

Women's ski jumping is considered a lock, as the only sport in the Olympic program where there is no gender equality. The IOC's decision to keep the sport out of the 2010 Games also caused a massive headache for organizers, with human rights complaints and a lawsuit that went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. While the suit was not successful, the first judge's ruling pointed out several inconsistencies - including the fact that men's ski jumping wouldn't even qualify for the Games under the criteria set for women.

The suit was based on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which specifies gender equality in funding for sports and the arts. Since federal and provincial money was spent on the facilities, the ski jumpers argued that it violated the charter not to include women in the Games - a point the judge conceded.

However, the judge also determined that only the IOC can sanction a sport as "Olympic," and that, while in the wrong, the IOC is the sanctioning body for the Olympic Games.

Ski halfpipe is also considered something of a sure thing, given the popularity of snowboard halfpipe and the level of development for the sport. Slopestyle also has a chance because of its popularity, although it has a tougher road because it requires new infrastructure. The other sports do not.

As for the team events, most of those will be showcased at World Championships in 2011. Team events have also been proposed for snowboardcross and mixed curling, but are not on the list of sports currently being evaluated by the IOC.

Peter Judge, CEO of the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association, said the delay would only strengthen the case for ski halfpipe and likely for ski slopestyle.

"Although ski halfpipe is already on the world stage with major events like the X Games, it is clear that the Olympic Games bring a much broader spectrum of attention and viewership to the sport," said Judge. "Its consideration by the IOC points to a continued revitalization and modernizing of the Games, and a changing thought process inside the IOC to reach the youth market."

As an interesting side-note, the IOC is considering whether to ban fireworks at future Summer and Winter Games, citing the environmental impact of the massive pyrotechnic displays that have become a fixture of the rings. That decision will also be made at a future meeting.