Like this site? Help us to make it better.


Good Moaning, World! French to be official language of London 2012

IOC stipulates that French will precedence over English when Jeux Olympiques hit Londres

Britain’s cycling fans may have an advantage over followers of many other sports when London hosts the 2012 Olympics, after the revelation that the official language of the Games will be not English, but French.

Whether it’s watching the rouleurs and puncheurs in the peloton battle it out - hopefully avoiding chutes and the dreaded voiture balai – on their way to the arrivée of the road race, or the pistards seeking to add to their palmarès in the vélodrome, the lexicon of cycling owes much to the French language.

Granted, to the uninitiated Anglophone, the phrases can sometimes sound like something spoken by Crabtree, the gendarme from ‘Allo ‘Allo!, but those of us who spend three weeks glued to the TV each summer watching the Tour de France, there could be a reassuring familiarity to some of the proceedings come London 2012.

According to The Daily Telegraph, documents obtained by the Spectator magazine and the Games Monitor website under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that French will take precedence over English at all ceremonies, including the presentation of medals, related to the Games – which London of course beat Paris to secure.

The 2012 Olympics may be the biggest sporting event to hit town since England won the World Cup at Wembley in 1966, but the move evokes thoughts more of 1066, the year of the Norman Conquest which paved the way for several hundred years of French taking primacy in England at court and in the law.

Making French an official language – however temporarily – in part of Great Britain for the first time since the Middle Ages isn’t the only controversial measure contained within the Olympic Technical Manual produced by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), according to the Telegraph.

In line with IOC requirements, an Act of Parliament has been passed making guerrilla marketing an offence, and London authorities are also required to “obtain control of all billboard advertising, city transport advertising, airport advertising etc for the duration of the games and the month preceding.” The rules also mean that Barclays Cycle Hire bikes will not be allowed in the Olympic Park.

LOCOG, the organiser of the London Olympics, is also required to provide at least 700 cars plus chauffeurs to people nominated by the IOC, as well as paying for at least 7,000 of the 40,000 hotel rooms that will need to be booked for the Olympic circus.

Despite its insistence on French as the offical language of London 2012, however, the IOC will be hoping that whatever the sport, competitors resist the temptation to take diner chez Virenque – the term has entered French cycling slang as a euphemism for seeking to artificially boost performance – le dopage, in other words.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

Latest Comments