Female canoeist takes London 2012 to court claiming gender inequality in the sports programme
Friday, 20 July 2012
July 20 - Samantha Rippington, an elite female canoeist from Reading, is set to launch a High Court challenge against London 2012 for what she claims is a refusal for the Organising Committee to carry out an equalities audit of the Olympic sports programme.
Rippington (pictured), who has represented Britain at several World Championships, wants London 2012 to examine gender bias in the Olympic sports programme.
This includes the Olympic canoeing programme, which features more men's canoe events than women's.
Rippington argues that the Equality Act 2010 requires London 2012 to carry out an "equality impact assessment" of the Olympic sports programme.
Prior to starting her legal action, Rippington said: "All I am asking is that LOCOG [London 2012] answer two simple questions: Is it discriminatory for there to be five men's Olympic canoe events but none for women?
"And should that situation continue?
"As a female canoeist who could potentially compete at the Olympics I know what my answers are, but why won't the people who are responsible for staging these Olympics give us their answers too?
"I think that the international bodies who decide the Olympic sports programme also need to bring themselves to address these simple questions.
"Olympic canoeing, both sprint and slalom, is very technical.
"It takes years to learn the techniques correctly and both the athletes and coaches require a lot of dedication.
"Not being an Olympic sport means lower levels of funding, support and training opportunities than the men, which makes progression, both individually and in terms of the sport itself, very difficult."
London 2012 says it does not have to comply with the relevant legislation because it is a "private entity not carrying out Governmental functions" and it does not control the content of the Olympic sports programme – which is dictated by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
But Rippington is set to go ahead with legal action after Marguerite Russell, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers, backed her case.
"Ms Rippington does not seek to use this claim to change the 2012 Olympic sports programme," said Russell.
"She wants the organisers of these Olympics, who are in the UK bound by equalities rules, to conduct an in-depth examination of the gender bias in the canoeing programme, and, she hopes, in the Olympic sports programme in general.
"The Canadian courts have already decided that a national Organising Committee of the Olympic Games is carrying out a Governmental function when it stages the Olympics.
"Ms Rippington just wants LOCOG to get on with conducting the equality impact assessment, as it is obliged to do, so that London's Olympic legacy includes a positive contribution to the on-going efforts to achieve equality of opportunity in the Olympic movement and in sport generally."
The claim is designed to highlight broader issues of gender bias within the Olympic sports programme.
Rippington's claim comes a year before the IOC will decide on the Olympic sports programme for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.