World Facts

What Are the Official Languages of the Olympics?

English and French are the official languages of the Olympics, as well as the language of the host country.

Rule 23 of the Olympic Charter that came into use on August 2, 2015, stipulates that English and French are the official languages of the Olympics and all documents must be in the two languages. In addition to this International Olympics Committee (IOC) rule, part two dictates that during the games, real-time interpretations in Arabic, German, Russian, and Spanish must be available for all sessions. Lastly, part three states that the French text will prevail in the event that there is a divergence between English and French. The important question to ask is, what if the language of the host nation differs from any of the languages mentioned above? Well, the IOC has guidelines for that as well as described in this article.

The Relationship Between French and IOC

The International Francophone Organization is keen on promoting the French language internationally. For this reason, this organization partners with the IOC and sends a special French language ambassador to every winter and summer versions of the Olympic games. Such an ambassador is usually an accomplished artist or persons with high achievements from any French speaking nation. The ambassador’s main task is normally to promote the French language and culture during the games. The ambassador ensures that the French translations and interpretations at the games are of high quality and that he also promotes the use of the language in local schools.

Host Country Language

There are several countries that neither speak English nor French but have hosted either or both the summer and winter versions of the game. These countries include Greece, Germany, Netherlands, Japan, Finland, Italy, Norway, Austria, Mexico, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, South Korea, Spain, China, and Brazil.

The IOC ruled that the language or languages of the host country become an Olympic language during the duration of the games in the country. This means that every announcement must be in English, French, and the language of the host country. For example in Rio, the official languages were English, French, and Portuguese whereas, in China, it was English, French, and Chinese.

Furthermore, during the opening ceremony, the host country’s alphabet determines the order by which countries enter the venue. During the opening ceremony, only Greece and the host Nation’s parade do not follow the alphabetical order. Greece always enters first in honor of being the country where the first Olympics took place. The host nation always enters last. This order of first and last entrance came into test during the 2004 games in Athens where Greece was the host country. In that case, the Greek flag entered the venue first then the delegation entered last.

Host Country or City with More Than One Language

One of the goals of the Olympic Games is to promote the interaction of cultures. Cultures of both the guest and host countries. Some host countries are complex with different languages and cultures. In the 1992 Barcelona games, the games’ organizing committee had the challenge of incorporating Barcelona’s and Spain’s languages and culture into the rigid IOC guidelines. The 1992 Olympic games had four official languages, English, French, Catalan, and Castilian Spanish. This setting was so because Barcelona is in the autonomous Catalonia area of Spain which has its own language, Catalan. At the then Olympics, the organizers used symbols of both Catalonia and Spain like the flags, anthem, and language.

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