Even in London, French is required at the Olympic Games

Non-French speaking spectators at the Olympics in London will be surprised to hear each announcement repeated in French at the official ceremonies.

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Article 24 of the Olympic Charter states that both French and English are the official languages of the Games.

Few people, in actuality, realize that French and English are both the “Official Languages of the Olympic Games,” as stipulated by Article 24 of the Olympic Charter. In theory, all of the signs, announcements, and documents put forth from the Games are supposed to be available in both languages.

Pierre de Courbetin

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Baron Pierre de Courbetin

This tradition is attributed to the founder of the Modern Olympic Games, Pierre de Courbetin. Born in 1863, Courbetin was convinced that sports brought a moral and social force to the individual. Deeply inspired by Ancient Greek civilization, he helped found the International Olympic Committee on June 23, 1984.

The first modern Olympic Games occurred two years later in Athens. French was already an official language of the Games. For Courbetin, the linguistic diversity was a means to promote openness and dialogue to achieve his ultimate goal: peace between people.

Since then, however, the equal usage of both French and English at the Games has not been strictly observed. In an effort to respect Article 24 of the Charter, the Secretary General of the International Francophone Organization, which includes seventy-five states and governments, names a special representative to each Games in charge of monitoring the use of French.

This year for the London Games, the special representative is Michaëlle Jean, a UNESCO special envoy to Haiti and a former Governor General of Canada. “We’re not coming to London up in arms, we’re coming in a spirit of partnership,” she told radio RTL.

This year, 72 delegations at the Games represent Francophone speaking countries, and numerous journalists are working on site to inform more than 220 million francophone speakers in the world of their athletes’ achievements, more than a century after the idea of Pierre de Courbetin.

Last modified on 13/08/2012

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