Winter OlympicsI’ve been having a lot of fun staying up late and watching the Winter Olympics coverage, especially as I used to live in beautiful Vancouver.

Away from curious events such as skeleton, however, controversy is brewing over the bilingual nature of the Games. Canada is officially bilingual, with one in four of the population identifying French as their mother tongue. In British Columbia though, where the Games are being held, there is a much lower rate of French spoken and scepticism about the country’s policy of two official languages.

Olympic organisers have made a huge effort to ensure the bilingualism of the Games, with bilingual signs in the Olympic zone, translation of official events including news conferences, and recruitment of French-speaking volunteers.

Yet all those efforts failed to avert controversy, as many residents of French-speaking Quebec – and the federal Cabinet minister with the language portfolio – complained that the opening ceremony had too little French content for a country where it’s the mother tongue of about 23 percent of the population.

“I was disappointed there wasn’t as much French as we were expecting, as we were told that there was going to be,” Heritage Minister James Moore told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. on Sunday.

Harsher criticism came from the president of the Montreal-based Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society, which advocates for Francophone rights.

“It was really pitiful,” Mario Beaulieu said. “It shows that official bilingualism in Canada is a farce. It’s only stated in theory to calm linguistic tides in Quebec, but the reality is it doesn’t work.” (Source: Washington Post)

The Olympics is a huge event, attracting people from all over the globe. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) retains French as one of its operating languages (the movement was founded by a Frenchman) despite the language becoming less globally dominant. It’s a shame that the focus is on a negative aspect of the Games, rather than what’s really important – the crazy sports!