Female canoeist challenges Olympic organisers in High Court over gender bias in London 2012 sports programme

Friday 20 July 2012

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Rajeev Thacker and Anthony Vaughan represent the current British champion in the C1 discipline of canoeing, who launched judicial review proceedings yesterday challenging the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG's) refusal to carry out an equality impact assessment of the Olympic sports programme. Under section 149 of the Equality Act 2010, the public sector equality duty requires them to have "due regard" to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between women and men, in the performance of their function of staging the Olympics.

The challenge is being brought by Samantha Rippington, who is unable to compete in the Olympics because there are no women's Olympic canoe events despite there being five men's canoe events. Ms Rippington said, "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." She added "All I am asking is that LOCOG 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?"

LOCOG has claimed that it is exempt from section 149 on the basis that it is a private company not carrying out governmental functions. However, Ms Rippington's case that LOCOG is, in fact, carrying out a public function relies on a Canadian case which held that the staging of the Olympics by the Vancouver Organising Committee of the Olympic Games was a function that was "uniquely governmental."

The outcome of this action will not affect the programme at this summer's Olympics, which was set well in advance of the Games. But as Marguerite Russell, also advising Ms Rippington, pointed out on Ms Rippington's behalf, the claim will, if successful, ensure 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".

Rajeev Thacker and Anthony Vaughan are both members of the Garden Court Public and Administrative Law Team.

For media enquiries, please contact:
Ben Walker, Marketing Officer at Garden Court Chambers on 020 7993 7671 or benw@gclaw.co.uk
Claire Thompson, Waves PR on 07771 817015 or email claire@wavespr.com.

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