The 2010 Olympics, our Olympics

The 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver present a “golden opportunity,” as the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages pointed out in its follow-up report of September 2009.

The whole world will have the chance to discover the cultural and linguistic wealth of one of Canada’s largest cities.

As your Senator from British Columbia, I have taken my job very seriously to ensure that both official languages are represented at the Olympics. I also am a member of the Official Languages Committee.

The 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games are international events that shows how large organizations can work together toward a common goal. These organizations include VANOC and Canadian Heritage, as well as the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages, Industry Canada and the Government of British Columbia.

As we know, bilingualism is present across our country, from the Atlantic Provinces to the West Coast. The Fédération des Francophones de la Colombie-Britannique and Fondation Dialogue have played major roles in involving the Francophonie in the organization of the Olympic Games.

As a Senator and representative of British Columbia, but especially as a resident of this magnificent province, is it my dream to have the experience of a lifetime at the Winter Games in February and March.

I know, in fact, we all know, that these Olympic Games will be the most beautiful and impressive ever because they are being held in our own backyard, here in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Why am I making such a big deal over the location? It’s not to give an advanced geography lesson but to emphasize that these Games do not belong just to Vancouverites; they belong to all Canadians. And that’s why linguistic duality is so essential. Let’s not forget that Canada’s two official languages are also the official languages of the International Olympic Committee.

People’s first point of contact with the Games is through publicity like brochures, media coverage, audio-visual clips and our partners’ websites. We are inviting everyone to join us in both languages. It’s fantastic!

The airlines’ bilingual employees will be there to greet the outstanding athletes, their families and associates, sports personalities, politicians, visitors and everyone eager to discover all we have to offer. Everything will be in two languages, from announcements in flight and on the ground, to Vancouver’s public transit. It’s both encouraging and reassuring.

Hotel-keepers have been preparing for the onslaught of visitors for some time and will be delighted to watch their bilingual employees reach out to newcomers with a helpful “Welcome et bienvenue!”

I know that once they have settled in, visitors will be anxious to explore our spectacular city. As they leave their cozy accommodations, what do you think they will find? Bilingual signs, of course! There will be no getting lost in Vancouver ever again!

Bilingualism will be on display everywhere, at tourist attractions, restaurants, bars, activities and entertainment venues. Everything from posters to food and drink menus will offer visitors a new experience: linguistic duality made real.

When the opening ceremony finally arrives, what will everyone discover? Whatever is in English is also in French in a nearly simultaneous parallel interpretation. It’s incredible! But it will come as no surprise really, given people’s experiences up to that point. A bilingual opening ceremony? But of course!

And now, let the Games begin!! We will be thrilled by the performances of the world’s best winter athletes. And the commentary? Equally impressive! It’s not always easy for people from a unilingual Francophone environment to understand everything that is said in English. But I’m sure that these visitors will leave satisfied, thanks to a bilingual commentary that fills in those difficult gaps.

Once the spectacular event is over, the same bilingual road signs that guided our visitors to the venue will lead them back to their accommodations.

The closing ceremony, like the opening one, will be another (but not the last) opportunity to reflect on our linguistic duality: bilingual ceremony, totally bilingual medals and bilingual good-byes, even though tears of joy have no language.

That’s my dream for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games. I invite everyone to come and see what the Olympic partners have to offer in addition to the Games themselves: shows, concerts, events and, of course, a Cultural Olympiad!

As I leave my dream world and come back to reality, I know that beyond the bright lights of huge events and sporting competitions such as this, human trafficking is a pervasive threat to our society. I am involved in the fight against this practice and I am calling on you, my fellow citizens, to help me and the organizations involved in this struggle. Help us say no to all activities that could lead to human trafficking.

We are all human beings and living creatures, and we often need a helping hand! Listen to the cries of need and make sure that you help other people to thrive through your actions, your help and your humanity. Let’s not allow the worst elements of our society to prey on the most vulnerable! Let’s never forget that we have to help others if we want help ourselves someday!

You have contributed and continue to contribute so much to the development of our prosperous society. Remember that we could never have made this bold dream come true without you; to become the host city and province of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

Related Links

Senate Chamber Speech – Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Fourth Report of Official Languages Committee

Senate Chamber Question – Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Canadian Heritage and Official Languages – 2010 Winter Olympics Bilingual Signage

Senate Chamber Statement – Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Human Trafficking at 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics

Senate Chamber Question – Wednesday, November 14, 2007
2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics Prevention of Human Trafficking


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