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Adding women's ski jumping to Games an IOC decision: federal sport minister

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WHISTLER, B.C. - Any decision to include women's ski jumping in the Winter Games rests with the International Olympic Committee, the federal minister of state for sport said Thursday.

Gary Lunn said he has not raised the issue of adding women's ski jumping to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver with either the IOC or its president Jacques Rogge.

"I have not," he said.

Lunn's comment's seem to reverse the stance of Helena Guergis, the former minister of state for sport, and come as a disappointment for women ski jumpers on the anniversary of the one-year countdown to the 2010 Games.

"We need to be very clear, this is solely a decision of the IOC and there is a very clear process on how a new discipline becomes an event in the Olympics," Lunn said in an interview. "I can't add anymore to that."

A group of former and current women ski jumpers from Europe, the U.S. and Canada will go to court April 20 to argue that preventing them from competing at the 2010 Games violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The group is suing the Vancouver Olympic Games Organizing Committee, known locally as VANOC. The IOC and federal government are not named in the lawsuit.

Lunn suggested the group was wrong to target VANOC.

"VANOC has no more say if this becomes an event in the Olympics than I do," he said. "It's a decision of the IOC."

During the last federal election, Guergis said the government was doing all it could to ensure the event is included at the Vancouver Games. She said she had raised the issue with the IOC and that Ottawa was lobbying to have women ski jumpers included in 2010.

Nina Hooper-Reid, the mother of a 15-year-old female ski jumper, called Lunn's comments "very disappointing."

"It's sad," she said in an interview from Calgary. "When I see the VANOC image with the 'I believe' T-shirts and the ads they have, I think it's so sad that women are being denied that opportunity because they are women."

Hooper-Reid was part of a group that filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. That was settled after the federal government agreed to work with Olympic officials to change the rules.

Rogge, in Whistler as part of the one-year-out celebrations, declined comment when asked what the IOC would do if the court ruled in favour of the ski jumpers.

"We never comment on a court case until the outcome is known," he said.

During a visit to Vancouver last year Rogge said awarding medals in women's ski jumping would dilute the medals being given to other athletes.

Michael Chambers, president of the Canadian Olympic Committee, also wants to wait for the court's decision.

"The COC, like the rest of Canada, abides by the law in Canada," he said. "If a court directs something is done, we follow the direction of the court."

In 2006, the IOC voted to exclude women's ski jumping from the 2010 Games because it didn't meet the basic criteria for an Olympic event.

"Should the IOC make a decision to include women's ski jumping in these Games, or any of the future Games, I can tell you our government will be very pleased to support that," Lunn said.

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