10 August 2008 : When Chinese President Hu Jintao declared the Games of the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing open, these simple words – long-awaited by 20 per cent of the world’s population and some 10,500 athletes from the five continents – also appeared in French on the giant screens inside the Olympic Stadium.Initiative of the International French-speaking Organisation
This presence of the language of Olympic Games reviver Pierre de Coubertin at the first Games organised in the People’s Republic of China marked the kick-off of a Francophone event which took place in the Chinese capital the day after the Games Opening Ceremony. At the initiative of the Secretary General of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), Abdou Diouf, this meeting brought together several heads of state and of government, sports ministers, Olympic family members – both French-speaking and international – around a message to promote the French language and the values that the French-speaking family and the sports movement share.
French on the same level as Chinese and English
French, an official language of the Olympic Movement, along with English, is of fundamental importance for the Olympic Games. That is why the OIF signed a convention with the Beijing Games Organising Committee (BOCOG) proposing a series of measures to accompany BOCOG’s efforts to encourage the use of French. These include translating the Games web site and the official information platform, INFO2008; signage in French at the Olympic venues; translating the main publications by BOCOG, including the Spectator Guide; recruiting 40 translators and French-speaking journalists for the period of the Games for written and oral announcements and the ceremonies; not forgetting providing French training for several hundreds of Chinese; and finally, organising French-speaking cultural events.
Beijing under the magnifying glass of the Grand Témoin
Like in Athens in 2004 and Turin in 2006, a Grand Témoin [Great Witness] – in this instance former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin – will visit the sports venues, Olympic enclosures and other public places and attend the competitions and official events in Beijing. To date, like its predecessors, Beijing in 2008 is taking the same approach to being loyal to the French culture and language and taking it beyond the promotion and development of cultural diversity, values shared by Olympism and the OIF. Expect to go further and stronger in Vancouver in 2010, London in 2012 and Sochi in 2014….