Like Athens in 2004, Turin in 2006 and Beijing in 2008, Vancouver 2010 will be closely examined by a Grand Témoin de la Francophonie, this time the former President of the Swiss Confederation, Pascal Couchepin, who was appointed by the Secretary General of La Francophonie, Abdou Diouf. The role of the Grand Témoin is to lead activities promoting awareness and observation of the French language, and increasing its use.
At the announcement of this nomination, IOC President Jacques Rogge stated: “We are looking forward to working with Mr Couchepin. We have already had the opportunity of working with him in the framework of his functions within the federal government. His solid international experience and his knowledge of the sports world will certainly be valuable assets in his new role of Grand Témoin de la Francophonie.” Pascal Couchepin is a key figure in the Swiss political landscape. He was President of the Swiss Confederation twice, in 2003 and 2008. Within the Federal Council, he led the Federal Department of Economic Affairs from 1998 to 2002. In this function, he was in charge of the ministries of agriculture, foreign trade, labour and professional education. During this period, he represented Switzerland within the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and served as Governor of the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). Currently Head of the Federal Department of Home Affairs, responsible for questions of social security, health, education, university education, research and culture, he will leave this post in October 2009 to devote himself to his new mission promoting the French language at the Olympic Games.
Olympic attachment to the French language
As President Rogge often stresses, the IOC is deeply attached to the defence of the French language, as it was created in French, by Pierre de Coubertin, the reviver of the Olympic Games, in an era (end of the 19th century) when French was the language of diplomacy. Since April 1915, the IOC headquarters have been in the French-speaking region of Switzerland. We should also recall that, in accordance with Rule 24 of the Olympic Charter, French is an official IOC language, alongside English, and is therefore of fundamental importance for the Olympic Games. Furthermore, if there is a discrepancy between a French text and an English one in the Olympic Charter, or any other IOC document, the French text prevails, in the absence of any written instruction to the contrary.
A satisfactory place in Beijing
Last August in Beijing, the French language had a satisfactory place, thanks to the organisers’ considerable efforts. This was the conclusion of the Grand Témoin for these Games, former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, in his report on the use of French at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008. A copy of this report will be officially presented today to President Rogge at a meeting in Lausanne with Pascal Couchepin, who will be accompanied by Pierre de Cocatrix, the Chief of Staff of the Secretary General of La Francophonie. Besides the presentation of the Grand Témoin’s mission in Vancouver, and a discussion on preparations for the Games, the cooperation project between the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) and the Olympic Movement will also be addressed, with the focal points being the first Youth Olympic Games in August 2010 in Singapore, the next edition of the Francophone Games in Beirut, and preparations for the 2013 edition.
Vancouver 2010, devoted to Francophonie
Canada is recognised throughout the entire world for its bilingualism and diversity. The Federal Law of 1969 made French and English the two official languages of the Canadian Federal State. The Organising Committee for the Games in Vancouver (VANOC) has therefore made a strong commitment to ensuring that the 2010 Olympic Winter Games respect the linguistic reality of the host country. The creation of a VANOC advisory panel on the official languages is a perfect illustration of this. A multi-party agreement between VANOC, the federal government and the host cities of the Games was signed, fixing very high standards in the area of bilingualism. To underline the important contribution of the country’s French-speaking communities, VANOC also signed a collaboration agreement with the Canadian Foundation for Cross-Cultural Dialogue and the British Columbia Francophone Federation. Reflecting this agreement, the Place de la Francophonie, situated in downtown Vancouver, will be, throughout the Games, a place of gathering, celebration, artistic creation, economic exchange and gastronomy.
Discover the report on French at the Beijing Games on the official web site of the [i]Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie[/i]