French: Olympic Language

With only a few months left to the Olympics kick off on July 27th in London, now seems like the right moment, to reminisce on the role of the French language in the deployment of the greatest sporting event on the planet. The Canadian Francophonie can help promote the influence of the French language by allowing French to take its rightful place in the heart of England.

Let’s start be taking a short trip down memory lane to last year’s appointment of former Governor General of Canada, Michaëlle Jean, as a great witness of the Francophonie (grand témoin de la francophonie) for the London Olympics. Appointed by Abdou Diouf, Secretary General of the International Organisation of La Francophonie, Ms. Jean will act as an observer and will promote the use of French at ceremonies and competitions including establishing relations with the organizing committee. There will be a Canadian twist in the French lyrics, cheers and speeches proclaimed in the English capital.

Here are Ms. Jean’s comments on her appointment in April of 2011. "I see this opportunity for the London Games as an extraordinary moment, again, to spread the French language," she said.

Canadian Signature

Another French Canadian key element will be put in place in order to ensure the presence of the French language in London this summer. An agreement on the place of the French language at the Olympics will be signed next month in Quebec City. The agreement between the International Organization of la Francophonie and the Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games will be concluded within the SportAccord Convention to be held, May 25th. One small problem, according to the Canadian Press article, the convention will be held mainly in English ...

Finally, Rule 23 of the Olympic Charter states that French is one of two official languages of the Olympic movement:

1. The official languages of the IOC are French and English.

2. At all Sessions, simultaneous interpretation must be provided into French, English, German, Spanish, Russian and Arabic.

3. In the case of divergence between the French and English texts of the Olympic Charter and any other IOC document, the French text shall prevail unless expressly provided otherwise in writing.

Philippe Daoust