Inside Look: Interpreting at the Olympics

by | Nov 12, 2021

When it started back in 1894, the Olympic Games had a mere 24 participating countries. Today, there more than 200 different nationalities are represented at this global sporting event. And as you might have guessed, the linguistic challenges involved are enormous. Here’s a look at some fun facts about interpreting at the Olympics!


Facts About Interpreting at the Olympics

The 2020 Games Had 3 Official Languages

After being delayed by the global Coronavirus Pandemic, the 2020 Olympic Games finally kicked off in Tokyo, Japan, on the 23rd of July 2021. The Olympics always has two official languages: English and French. Depending on where the Games are hosted, a third language is always added. Since they were hosted in Japan in 2021, Japanese was the third official language of the 2020 Olympics.

Did you know that some 128 million people speak Japanese? Most of its native speakers live in Japan, and linguists still aren’t sure how Japanese is related to any other living language!  Aside from a complicated grammatical system that uses different degrees of formality, the Japanese language has a few other unique and exciting characteristics.


The Reason Why French is an Official Olympic Language

The French International Organization of la Francophonie is in charge of ensuring that the French language gets its due at the Olympic Games. This language watchdog is called le Grand Témoin, which means “the Great Witness.”

The reason for this, and French being an official language of the Games, is because the original Olympics were hosted in ancient Greece between 8BCE and 4 AD. The modern games are a revival of this ancient tradition, and it was revived by a Frenchman, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, in 1896. As part of the revival process, he wrote the French language requirements for the Games.


The 2020 Games Gave Many Countries Their Own Samurai Characters

Japanese artists created anime samurai characters that represented the majority of countries that competed in the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan. This was called the World Flags Project and saw each character receiving its own persona and backstory to represent the country in question’s unique cultural elements as well as their national flag.


Translators and Interpreters Had Front-Row Seats

As with any major international sporting event, the availability of high-quality translating and interpreting services was a top priority at the Tokyo Olympics. Host cities used volunteers along with professional translators and interpreters to act as language guides throughout the Games.

Initially, translation technology was expected to take center stage at the 2020 Olympics, but then COVID-19 happened. Japan is known as a powerhouse of innovation and technology, and many expected them to unveil new translation tech at the Games. Panasonic, for example, was due to debut the Fukifashi, a portable translation device. They also had plans to set up a “robot village” geared towards assisting visitors with all language-related queries. But the pandemic threw a spanner in the works, and since spectators were not allowed at the games, the focus on translation tech took a backseat.


Professional Interpreting for Any Event!

Here at Day Interpreting, we take pride in our team of highly experienced and professionally qualified interpreters. We offer interpreting services for any kind of event, and with our ground-breaking interpreting app, you can call on the services of language experts regardless of where in the world you’re based. Get in touch with us right now to learn more about our range of interpreting services!


Seldean Smith
Seldean Smith

Seldean is a multi-skilled content wizard that dedicates herself to writing content that goes beyond merely sparking interest in the audience.

Seldean Smith

Seldean is a multi-skilled content wizard that dedicates herself to writing content that goes beyond merely sparking interest in the audience.

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