If you haven't noticed, Olympic ski jumping is a men-only event. Women were banned from it by the International Olympic Committee.
Turned down by the IOC for their lack of depth, women ski jumpers took their case to Canada’s courts, where a judge agreed last summer that the IOC’s refusal to hold women’s events in the discipline constituted discrimination. But the Vancouver organizing committee (VANOC) was powerless to rectify the situation, concluded the court – a decision upheld by an appeals court in November.
But apart from ski jumping, female participation in the Games has improved dramatically over the past three decades.
The dynamic head of the IOC's "Women and Sport" commission, Anita DeFrantz, has overseen impressive progress – not least of all because in 1991 a new rule was introduced that every new event must include women as well as men.
- In the Summer Games, women’s participation as a proportion of total competitors has gone from from 20 percent in 1980 to 42 percent at the 2008 Beijing Games. (See a great graph here.)
- In the Winter Games, women have made nearly as much progress, with 38 percent of the total athlete pool at the 2006 Games. (See chart here.)
- Thirty years ago, women in summer sports could choose from 12 sports offering 50 events. Today, they’re allowed to compete in 26 sports offering 137 events.
- In winter events, women’s options for a sport have doubled to seven, with events increasing from 14 to 40.
That will be good news for young Americans such as Sarah Hendrikson, who this fall finished second at US Nationals – an event that was held on a plastic surface in Lake Placid, N.Y., so as not to interfere with the winter competition circuit in Europe.
And it will be impressive for many Olympic spectators who have never seen bird-like girls defy Earth’s gravity.