Why Is French the Official Language of The Olympics?

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Why Is French the Official Language of The Olympics?

Why Is French the Official Language of The Olympics?

(Last Updated On: November 14, 2023)

Are you a sports person? It is very common that when people join the Olympics, they hear different languages either by athletes or by their coaches because people from all over the world take part in the contests. But have you ever imagined that there will be an official language of the Olympics as well? Many people are curious about this fact, let’s answer this question!

What Are the Olympics?

Olympics are a series of international athletic competitions held in different countries. It is an important multi-sport event that takes place after every four years. About thousands of athletes from all over the world take part in Olympics. Olympics are the world’s famous games featuring the winter and summer games especially. More than 200 countries participate in these contests.

Olympics are a great way for a nation to showcase its skills and hidden talents. For this contest, the participants get training for years because there is a lot of competition and every trainee tries its best to win. At the end of this event, the IOC conducts the medal ceremony in which the winner gets Olympic medals and achievements, like gold-medal, silver medals, and bronze medals for the position holders first, second and third respectively.

A Baron Pierre De Coubertin, who was a teacher and a historian created the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1894. It was his interest to gather contestants from different countries to compete with them. The origin of the Olympics is in Greece. In the first Olympic event, only 280 athletes participated from 13 nations in 43 contests.

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official language of the olympics

And since then, the summer and winter Olympic Games have been held separately, alternating between four years i.e., every two years. Pierre De thinks that the Olympics can be a way of promoting peace among different nations. Checkout our latest post about What are the real benefits of migration to another country?

The Official Language of The Olympics

According to Section 23 of the Olympics Charter, which came into use on July 17, 2020, English and French are the official languages of the Olympics and therefore every participant needs to have their documents in both of these languages. This International Olympics Committee (IOC) rule goes on to dictate that during the games, real-time interpretations in Arabic, German, Russian, and Spanish must be available for all sessions.

The IOC has a complete guide for anyone who wants to apply to these contests. French has the status of first official language for Olympic events because it was the language of diplomacy at that time. But then later on, when more countries started participating in this contest, IOC updated and made French and English, the official languages of the Olympics.

English Language

For these international events, English is the official language because it is a common and dominant international language. A large number of people speak English and are familiar with its grammar to an extent. Although, English is also available in various forms now and the Modern English that we know of today is very different from the one that has origin decades ago. It has the official status because of its popularity and ease. People from all the African countries speak English and there are more than 100 such countries.

Due to its wide use, almost every country has made it compulsory to an extent that children learn English in schools and colleges. Anyone having a grip on the English language can travel worldwide without having the difficulty of the language barrier. This continuous popularity has provoked IOC to make English the official lingo. The non-English speaking residents of an Olympic host city accommodate visitors in English at the same time because they are an expression of a multilingual mindset.

French Language

The founder of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was a Frenchman, so in his honor, French has the official status. At that time, French was the diplomatic language. Moreover, since April 1915, the headquarter of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was established in a French-speaking region of Switzerland.

The IOC charter said that “in case of divergence between French and English texts, French text will prevail unless expressly provided otherwise in writing”. For such reasons, French was prioritizing among all the other languages. When English became more dominant and most commonly used international language, French usage at the Olympics began to fall.

This was an alarming situation for the French-speaking world. The International Francophone organization tried to promote the French language. For this reason, they partnered with IOC and send their person (ambassador) to every Olympics. The ambassador should be a high-achievement person belonging to a French-speaking world. According to the Olympic charter, French is before English. This is the legacy of Pierre De Coubertin who was the founder of the modern Olympics.

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The Relationship between French and the IOC

The International Francophone Countries keeps on promoting French internationally. Because of this reason, this organization partners with the IOC, and therefore, every summer and winter iteration of the Olympic Games, they send a special French ambassador specially to increase the importance of this lingo.

The ambassador is usually an accomplished person or artist with high achievements belonging to any French-speaking nation. His main task is to promote the culture of the French language during the games. The ambassador must ensure that French translations and interpretations at the contests and games are of high quality and to promote the use of language in local schools to enhance communication.

Host Country Language

Many other countries speak neither French nor English but have hosted either or both the summer and winter Olympics. These countries include Greece, Germany, Netherlands, Japan, Finland, Italy, Norway, Austria, Mexico, Russia, the former Yugoslavia, South Korea, Spain, China, and Brazil.

According to the rules and regulations of the IOC, the language of the host nation becomes the Olympic language during the duration of the games in the country. It means that every announcement must be in English, French, and the language of the host nation. For example, in Rio De Janeiro in 2016, the official languages were English, French, and Portuguese, whereas in Pyeongchang in 2018 it was English, French, and Korean.

Furthermore, during the opening ceremony, the alphabets of the host country determine the order by which the countries enter the venue. During the ceremony, only Greece and the host countries do not follow the parade of the nation in alphabetical order.

In honor of where the Olympics first took place, Greece enters first and the host nation always enters at the last. This order was decided by the International Olympic Committee. It was first tested 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.

Improvements in Olympics

When Olympics was started, a very few athletes participated from very few nations. But with time, this number increased and the Olympics became one of the famous events today. In this era, more than 200 nations from all over the world participate in Olympic Games. There is no gender discrimination in sports.

The athletes are not only men but also women. In 2000, Bahrain sent 2 female athletes for the first time to the Olympics. And after that number of female athletes was growing with every passing year. Also, as time passed and the technical world grew, sports became more advance. More and more sports have been introduced in the Olympics in the passing years.

Category and number of sports may vary from one Olympiad to the other. Each discipline has several sports in it. For example, aquatics sports include swimming and water polo. And each discipline of sport is represented by a particular committee created by the international Olympic Committee (IOC). Previous Olympic Games included some sports that are no longer a part of the Olympics. These sports are known as “discontinued sports”.

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