ARCHIVED - 2. The State of Preparedness of VANOC and of Canadian Heritage

WarningThe Standard on Web Usability replaces this content. This content is archived because Common Look and Feel 2.0 Standards have been rescinded.

Archived Content

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please contact us to request a format other than those available.

Page 4 of 9

2.1 Study themes

2.1.1 Introduction and methodology

The information presented in this chapter comes mainly from two sources: an analysis of relevant documentation, and more than twenty interviews with representatives of VANOC, Canadian Heritage, associations representing French-speaking communities, and the Canadian Foundation for Cross-Cultural Dialogue (referred to as Fondation Dialogue in the text that follows). Most interviewees were identical to those in the study. However, we also met with VANOC managers in charge of the operational components, since the organization is now at the implementation stage. We compared this information to the information that was collected for the needs of the initial study in order to determine the progress made and the issues that VANOC and Canadian Heritage must immediately address in order to effectively reflect Canada’s bilingual character. Participants had the opportunity to comment on the interview summaries and to validate the information collected.

2.1.2. Official languages governance

Under this theme, we specifically address issues regarding VANOC’s vision of and commitment to the Multiparty Agreement’s language requirements, as well as the control mechanisms set up to ensure these commitments are respected.

Significant progress had been made with regard to the governance of official languages by both VANOC and Canadian Heritage since the time of the study. However, there are still some improvements to be made.

The transition from the planning phase to the execution stage presents new challenges. VANOC’s senior management remain firmly committed to staging Games that reflect linguistic duality, even in this more difficult context. Representatives from both Francophone associations and Canadian Heritage have stressed this commitment. The challenge now is to do everything possible so that this commitment is translated into action. According to several interviewees, integrating official languages into operations is a greater challenge than it was during the planning stage, because from now on a myriad of operational aspects must be taken into account.

While not questioning VANOC’s commitment to staging Olympic and Paralympic Games that refl ect linguistic duality, external representatives mentioned that, faced with the extent of the work to be done, VANOC had  sometimes tended to adopt a narrow interpretation of the scope of its compliance with some of the Multiparty Agreement’s language requirements. For example, VANOC is considering the possibility of translating only some of the biographies of the athletes who will be participating in the Games, even though it had initially committed to translating all of them in order to comply with the Multiparty Agreement requirement in this respect. This solution will be discussed later in this report.

Some of the Multiparty Agreement’s requirements are not as clear as others. For example, taken literally, clause 1k, stipulating that the program of the opening and closing ceremonies “will include participants and events which represent both official language groups” could be interpreted to mean that the mere presence of artists from a language group in visual events (dance, circus) meets this requirement. However, it is important that each language group participate in elements where language is the medium of expression.

The inclusion of both official languages should be a natural reflex, not an afterthought. Hence, senior management must inform and raise awareness among middle managers of the importance of meeting the Multiparty Agreement’s language requirements in terms of operations. Information provided by some interviewees in charge of operations has revealed that VANOC should take more steps to ensure that these middle managers fully grasp the importance of taking official languages into account. Given their strategic role at the operational stage, they will contribute to a great extent to VANOC’s success. The Commissioner suggests that senior vice-presidents, vice-presidents and program directors remind employees that it is essential that the Multiparty Agreement’s language requirements that apply to their area of responsibility are met, and that, if necessary, they clarify the scope of certain requirements. Control mechanisms

Control mechanisms at both VANOC and Canadian Heritage have clearly been improved, enabling senior officials of both organizations to be informed of the progress made, and of the strategic issues for which a solution must be found.

At VANOC, the Executive Vice-President, Human Resources, Sustainability and International Client Services, provides updates on official languages to the Executive Committee and to the Sustainability and Human Resources Committee of VANOC’s Board of Directors. From now on, this issue will be regularly discussed by these two committees. Thus, topics such as French-language content in the one-year countdown and in the Games’ opening and closing ceremonies, and translation are discussed by the Executive Committee and the Board of Directors, and their members are paying more attention to language issues.

A Board Advisory Committee on Official Languages (reporting to the Board of Directors), created in December 2008—which brings together VANOC, Canadian Heritage and Francophone community leaders, as well as former French prime minister and Grand Témoin at the Beijing Olympics Jean-Pierre Raffarin—is another mechanism that allows senior management to examine strategic issues. Although it is still too early to assess the Committee’s impact, almost all interviewees pointed out that it will increase the visibility and importance of official languages, thanks to the presence of experienced, senior individuals. At the beginning of June, the Committee developed an action plan to follow up on the recommendations of the Commissioner’s study. This plan is, on the whole, comprehensive: it includes specific action to be undertaken to attain the objectives set, and it names the people in charge. This will undoubtedly help VANOC and Canadian Heritage determine the direction to take to attain their offi cial language objectives.

Beyond the Advisory committee’s plan, VANOC continues to prepare a quarterly progress report on official languages, which is sent to the Federal Games Secretariat. An analysis of the most recent report (June 30, 2009) shows a defi nite improvement when compared to the reports reviewed in the context of the study. The document now covers each of the Multiparty Agreement’s language requirements. It gives a better, clearer and more detailed overview of the situation of official languages. For each requirement, the report specifically defines performance indicators, progress made from the very beginning and during the last quarter, and the challenges to be overcome. In certain cases, the issues to be resolved could be described in more detail, so that the people who must act have a better grasp of the measures to take. For example, in the case of translation, it is indicated that additional resources will be required without, however, specifying the extent of the gap that needs to be addressed.

Moreover, some of the objectives presented by VANOC in this most recent report are not in keeping with the Multiparty Agreement’s requirements. Clause 1d of the Agreement states that “all [...] information material [...] intended for the general public [...] will be made available simultaneously in both offi cial languages.” In its quarterly report, VANOC indicates that “in exceptional circumstances, unanticipated communications will be consecutively broadcasted within a twelve-hour period in the second language, and urgent communications, within a six-hour period.” This procedure does not respect the obligation to inform the two language groups simultaneously in both languages. These discrepancies will be discussed later in the report.

For its part, the Federal Games Secretariat of Canadian Heritage has modified its approach and requirements vis-à-vis VANOC. For language issue monitoring, the Secretariat has moved from a rather informal approach, considered timid by some interviewees, to a more demanding and rigorous approach when it comes to accountability. More specifically, it has requested that VANOC modify its quarterly progress reports, which were essentially a list of activities of the Official Languages Function, so that they actually report on the degree of implementation of the Multiparty Agreement. The Federal Games Secretariat also asked that the most recent VANOC business plan be presented so that the funds allocated to official languages can be more easily and clearly identified. We cannot comment any further on this topic as we were unable to access these documents. In addition, regular discussions take place between the Secretariat’s senior management and VANOC’s executives regarding certain language issues.

The governance structure at Canadian Heritage has been strengthened. An internal committee (PCH 2010) chaired by the Deputy Minister was created to ensure that the Games file is monitored more consistently. It meets every two weeks. The Deputy Ministers’ Committee and the Committee of Assistant Deputy Ministers from the departments involved in the Games are still in place. Language issues are regularly discussed by these committees. The Commissioner and his officials presented key messages and some of the results of the awareness campaign to the Deputy Ministers’ Committee (March 2009) and to the Committee on Essential Federal Services (April 2009). Language clauses in agreements

In addition to its contribution for infrastructure and the legacy of the Games, Canadian Heritage has provided funding for other activities, such as the opening and closing ceremonies, the Torch Relay, the Cultural Olympiad and the Vancouver and Whistler celebration sites. The Department indicated that it included language clauses in each of the contribution agreements. For the follow-up, it gave the Office of the Commissioner copies of the agreements for the opening and closing ceremonies, the Cultural Olympiad, and the Vancouver celebration site, indicating that the agreement for the Whistler celebration site is similar to Vancouver’s. Canadian Heritage has also indicated to the Office of the Commissioner that language clauses will also be included in the contribution agreements for the Place de la francophonie and the digital album project (CODE).

The agreement for the opening and closing ceremonies reiterates the language requirements set out in Annex A of the Multiparty Agreement (which can be found in Appendix 2 of this report). Clause 1k) of Annex A says that “Opening and Closing ceremonies will be in both official languages and the national anthem will be sung in its bilingual version; the program will include participants and events which represent both official language groups.” As indicated in sections 2.1.2 and 2.2.1 of this report, the last part of this clause posed certain difficulties in its interpretation. Canadian Heritage should specify in any future agreements regarding international sporting events that the requirement to include participants and events that represent both official language groups applies to both verbal and visual components of ceremony programming.

Like the agreement for the opening and closing ceremonies, the language clauses in the agreement for the Cultural Olympiad reiterate the requirements in Annex A of the Multiparty Agreement. In addition, the agreement sets out results expected from the recipients. The list of seven expected results includes establishing “programming that showcases artists who are representative of Canada’s linguistic duality.” Adding a result dealing with linguistic duality in the programming is commendable. However, as we mentioned above, in the future Canadian Heritage should specify in any agreements for international sporting events that the requirement to include participants and events that represent both official language groups applies to both verbal and visual components of ceremony programming.

The language clauses in the Vancouver celebration site agreement are exhaustive and quite specific. They include the following requirements: all promotional information material provided by the City of Vancouver and intended for the general public will be made available in both official languages simultaneously; information related to celebration sites posted on the City’s 2010 Host City internet web page will be in both official languages; signs related to the Games installed by the City of Vancouver at the celebration site will be bilingual; all cultural activities sponsored or advertised as part of the Games will include verbal components in both English and French. VANOC and Canadian Heritage must ensure that the City of Vancouver complies with these specific provisions.

Overall, the language clauses in the contribution agreements are useful benchmarks that can be used after the Games to determine to what extent various parties fulfilled their commitments for these activities.

2.1.3. Status of required resources

Due to lower than anticipated revenue from sponsors and other sources, meeting both official language and other objectives poses a significant challenge for VANOC. Some interviewees noted that VANOC initially underestimated the extent of the resources required to meet all Multiparty Agreement requirements. Translation

The resources allocated to translation continue to be the most problematic component. Thanks to its efficiency and high productivity, the current six-member translation team (five translators and one editor) generally meets the current needs. However, it will not be able to respond to the considerable increase in the volume of words to be translated before and during the Games.

As an example of the ever-increasing translation volume, since November 2006, VANOC has had 3,200,000 words translated (2,000,000 in-house and 1,200,000 by external suppliers). According to the latest VANOC, estimate at the time of data collection, the volume of words to be translated from now until the end of the Games will be 7,500,000 words. VANOC estimates that it needs a minimum of 40 additional translators, about 20 of whom would be for Info 2010 (the media Web site). At the time of data collection, it estimates the total translation cost at about $5,300,000. Experience to date shows that  ANOC tends to underestimate its translation needs. The Translation Bureau projects that 65 to 70 translators would be required to meet the needs. The Bureau would be able to meet this demand, but VANOC would have to find the necessary funds since the Bureau works on a cost-recovery basis.

The parties involved have been discussing additional funding for some time. In early July, it appeared that VANOC was about to send a formal written request for funding to government authorities. Clause 23 of the Multiparty Agreement specifies that any requests from VANOC for additional funding must be made in writing. The Office of the Commissioner of Offi cial Languages is not in a position to be able to determine whether VANOC has the necessary funds for translation or whether the government should provide further assistance. However, given the urgency and importance of having sufficient translation resources available in the final months before and during the Games, a solution involving VANOC and the federal government must be found immediately to ensure that all requirements under the Multiparty Agreement are met.

A number of factors appear to further complicate the translation issue. VANOC, for example, has indicated that it cannot send texts to be translated to the Translation Bureau electronically because of a system that requires the on-site presence of translators, which would lead to additional travel and accommodation costs. The Translation Bureau, however, had indicated that there would be a way to resolve the problem of the electronic transmission of texts.

Other options considered by VANOC, such as using students or volunteers, cannot fully resolve the translation issue. Canada’s translation expertise is recognized throughout the world and the Vancouver Games are an opportunity to showcase this expertise. Canada’s reputation, and especially that of its language industry, would be ill served if VANOC communicated with the public, athletes, the media and dignitaries using translations of lesser quality.

Recommendation 1
The Commissioner recommends that Canadian Heritage and VANOC, together with Public Works and Government Services Canada, promptly find a solution that ensures adequate translation resources are available to fully meet all requirements under the Multiparty Agreement.

The Official Languages Function, which plays an essential role in guiding and supporting the various VANOC sectors, was significantly reinforced during the last year. Its staffing resources were increased. Furthermore, translation, which fell under the mandate of the Communications Service, was transferred to the Official Languages Function. This is another sign of progress. It means that everything that is produced in the two languages goes through this service, which can thus exercise greater influence and ensure better monitoring.

To our knowledge, the creation of a function to specifically coordinate the International Olympic Committee’s two official languages is the first of its kind in the history of the Games. It is a model that could be used for future Games. VANOC staff and volunteers

The Official Languages Function completed a second and final assessment of bilingual volunteer needs. It has also implemented a process to assess the level of French required for each volunteer position, which takes into account the degree and nature of the volunteer’s interaction with the public.

VANOC requires bilingual volunteers to have a “conversational/intermediate” or “fluent/advanced” proficiency level, depending upon the role they will be playing. As mentioned in the December 2008 report, candidates’ language skills in their second official language, including the skills of those who may use it less often, are evaluated in the interview process. Indications are that the proficiency of volunteers in both official languages will be adequate for the positions they will occupy.

According to the latest needs assessment, 3,500 of the 25,000 volunteer positions (including those for the Paralympic Games) will require knowledge of both official languages; this equals 14% of all volunteer positions, or one volunteer out of seven. As a result of a bilingual volunteer recruitment tour through Eastern Canada in May 2009 (including stops in Halifax, Ottawa and Montréal), the number of bilingual volunteers required is now close to being attained. Volunteers who have been selected are being sent offers over the course of the summer.

Because a variety of interactions with a diverse public will occur at different locations in two cities and one municipality (Vancouver, Richmond and Whistler), the number of 3,500 bilingual volunteers appears to be a strict minimum. In our opinion, this leaves little room for possible fluctuations. There are always some people who drop out along the way for various reasons. Several interviewees from VANOC and other organizations involved stated that they are worried that VANOC may be left with an insufficient number of bilingual volunteers to meet all its needs due to attrition. They are particularly concerned that the attrition rate will be higher among volunteers from Eastern Canada—the area  with the highest number of bilingual individuals—because volunteers are responsible for their own travel and accommodation.

The deployment of such a large number of volunteers, including some who are bilingual, is a major challenge. VANOC has indicated that if there is a shortage of bilingual volunteers at a specific location, the central network will have a list of bilingual volunteers and will call in those who are available. However, the Commissioner is concerned that for various reasons (attrition, a greater need for bilingual volunteers at certain locations, transportation difficulties, etc.) bilingual positions will not always be filled. VANOC plans to set up a roving team of bilingual volunteers who can replace absent personnel on short notice, especially in strategic locations such as information booths and media centres. However, this excellent idea was still only in its infancy at the time of the writing of this report.

The Federal Games Secretariat has not yet received the volunteer allocation plan, which must include measures to mitigate potential problems. With the expertise acquired from their experiences at various Olympic Games, Federal Games Secretariat and Sport Canada personnel could review the plan to determine if the planned number of volunteers is sufficient, and if their planned deployment is strategic with regard to sites requiring bilingual volunteers.

Recommendation 2
The Commissioner recommends that VANOC and Canadian Heritage demonstrate:

  • That they have put in place a deployment plan for bilingual volunteers;
  • That they have recruited a suffi cient number of bilingual volunteers to compensate for any absences;
  • That they will deploy these bilingual volunteers judiciously, by, for example, creating a roving team to address possible absences during the Games.

Bilingual volunteers will wear a pin inscribed with the word “Bonjour” to show the public that it can be served in French. A basic orientation course for all volunteers is offered in French in Vancouver once a month, and the documents issued to participants are available in both languages. The official languages issue is explained during this training.

In addition, all volunteers will have a pocket guide containing official languages information and key phrases to use to respond to the Frenchspeaking public in its language.

All these initiatives are an indication of VANOC’s commitment to ensuring that volunteers provide services in both official languages.

Of the approximately 1,100 VANOC employees (as of June 2009), 15% or 165 people, are able to provide services in both official languages. During the Games, these employees will be assigned to strategic positions that require knowledge of both English and French. Furthermore, 10% of employees have some knowledge of French, and 10% of employees are Francophone. This information shows that VANOC has made a clear effort to recruit bilingual personnel, and Francophones specifically.

Unfortunately, there has been no change in the low bilingual capacity at senior levels from the time when information was collected for the initial study. None of the 10 members of the VANOC Executive Committee is fluent in French, although some of them are taking classes. There are only a few bilingual people on VANOC’s Board of Directors. When unilingual members of these organizations speak in public, for example, at press conferences, they do not reflect Canada’s linguistic duality. Five or six interviewees have said they are concerned about this situation.

A positive initiative taken by VANOC should be pointed out: the signing of an agreement with Vancouver’s Éducacentre College, to provide French courses to VANOC employees. Despite their heavy workload, more than 100 employees have enrolled in these online courses. These courses will also be offered to interested volunteers beginning in the fall.

2.1.4 Communications with the various publics Signage and posters

It is planned that at each VANOC site, all signage bearing the Olympic or Paralympic Games logo will be in both official languages. To ensure the quality of each language, signs and posters are checked by the Translation Service.

The Office of the Commissioner’s team was able to see a first prototype for the signs and posters when it conducted the follow-up. This prototype included both languages, but they were presented in different formats. English was in bold while French was in regular type. VANOC explained that it had adopted this format following consultations with marketing experts who pointed out the need to differentiate the two languages and the pictograms that appear on many signs. In their opinion, this approach would have allowed Anglophones and Francophones to more easily identify their own language.

In early July, the Commissioner indicated to VANOC that this format does not respect the principle of equality of both languages. The Commissioner explained that federal government practice is to always ensure equal status of English and French. He indicated to VANOC that federal institutions have been using the same font for both languages for a long time without running into problems of linguistic differentiation and he expressed his concern that, if VANOC kept its prototype, such an approach would not respect the equal status of both official languages.

The Federal Games Secretariat, in a number of discussions with VANOC representatives in the spring of 2009, also indicated that VANOC’s current way of presenting the two languages does not meet the requirements of the Multiparty Agreement and that it expects both official languages to have equal status in their visual presentation.

Recommendation 3
The Commissioner recommends that VANOC ensure that all signage respect the equality of both official languages.

While preparing this report, the Office of the Commissioner learned that VANOC had changed its approach to signage. VANOC indicated that it had changed its prototype and that the new prototype used the same font and style for both languages. Only the colour is different: English is white and French is light blue. Furthermore, VANOC informed the Office of the Commissioner that all VANOC signage would be in line with the new prototype. The Commissioner recognizes that this is an important change that will help to ensure the requirement for equal status of both official languages is met.

In terms of signage outside the venues, elements bearing the VANOC logo will be bilingual. VANOC has encouraged and continues to encourage the province, the City of Vancouver and the Municipality of Whistler to produce their signs in both languages, and has provided them with a manual of graphic standards for signage with examples of English and French content. VANOC will also ensure that the quality of English and French on signs produced in both languages by the province and the two municipalities is checked.

Federal Games Secretariat personnel have communicated the same message to provincial and municipal managers.

It is important that provincial and municipal signage for visitors be in both official languages. Visitors will not be able to differentiate between VANOC signs and those by other jurisdictions.


As Olympic visitors make their way through Vancouver and Whistler, they will be visiting sites managed by the province, the cities, federal institutions and VANOC. Each of them is likely to use a different format for their signs and current plans indicate that only some signage will be in both official languages.

As our visitors travel from one Olympic site to another in Vancouver and Whistler and visit offices under federal jurisdiction, what impressions will visitors be left with following such an inconsistent experience?

It is unfortunate that VANOC did not intervene during the preparations for the opening of the Richmond Olympic Oval in early 2009 to ensure that its name would be displayed in English and French. Discussions are underway between VANOC and the municipality to make it bilingual as soon as possible. If this is not done, existing signs will be replaced by bilingual signs when VANOC takes possession of the Oval at the time of the Games. This incident raised concerns in the Francophone community regarding respect for the French language during the Games.

Recommendation 4
The Commissioner recommends that senior officials at Canadian Heritage contact as soon as possible provincial and municipal representatives and strongly urge them to render bilingual those signs that are crucial for visitors to the Games. Information and promotional documents and tickets

All information documents intended for the public continue to be produced in both languages. For justifiable economic reasons, the majority of documents are published in separate editions. This is the case for the spectators’ guide. This document will be sent along with tickets to ticket purchasers in December 2009 and January 2010 in the language chosen by the client during the online transaction. The tickets will be completely bilingual, including the inscriptions on the back.

In the case of documents produced in separate editions, VANOC assures us that a sufficient number of copies in each language will be distributed to ticket offices and stores, and that staff will be well aware of the importance of providing the appropriate version. It is important for staff to know whom to contact to obtain any documents that are lacking in one language or the other.

As mentioned in section, VANOC has indicated that, in exceptional circumstances, unanticipated communications would be broadcasted in the other official language within 12 hours, and within six hours in the case of urgent communications. This statement does not comply with the Multiparty Agreement, which explicitly states that these documents must be available in both languages simultaneously. The two language groups have the right to be informed at the same time, in their language, of any emergency situation or occurrence involving the Games. Often, unexpected situations, such as emergencies involving safety, security, the weather or public health require rapid communication with the public in both official languages.

Accreditations for athletes, officials, journalists and representatives from the Olympic Movement will be in both languages. VANOC is in the process of establishing a procedure for last-minute accreditations in both languages.

VANOC has made signifi cant progress in producing souvenir items in both languages. While a good number of them were in English only at the time of the study, 80% are now bilingual or language-neutral. Some souvenirs will, however, be in English only. VANOC is working with one of the licence-holders to create French-language merchandise, which will be launched in early fall via a marketing campaign in French-language newspapers.

A few snags have occurred. For example, the souvenir pin for Canada Day was available in English only on the Web site. Internet

The Web site is the primary means of communication with the public. VANOC regularly posts press releases on its activities, and there are numerous information columns on many aspects of the Games. The site continues to be fully bilingual, with versions published in both languages simultaneously. The quality of English and French is good. The Communications Branch, in which 70% of the staff is bilingual, and the Translation Service deserve credit for their work in this regard.

VANOC Web site

The documents available on VANOC’s Web site must be posted in both of Canada’s official languages simultaneously because the Web site is the primary means of disseminating press releases and information to the public. This approach will enable both language groups to stay informed about the Games. Information for the public, announcements of results and commentaries

VANOC has assured the Office of the Commissioner that messages, announcements and commentaries during competitions will be in both offi cial languages at all sites. There is a lack of bilingual announcers in certain disciplines; VANOC has committed to finding bilingual announcers for all disciplines, and their skills in both English and French will be assessed.

The most challenging operational element is transmitting information and communications to the public at competition sites, cultural performances and other events. All personnel assigned to information booths at the 15 competition venues will be bilingual. Numerous messages for the spectators will be included in the spectators’ guide, which will be in both languages. A significant proportion of messages to be transmitted to the venues will be pre-recorded in both languages. Staff will have maps of Vancouver and Whistler containing bilingual information.

According to the current plans, “dynamic” daily information (road closures, schedule changes, etc.) is to be prepared by the Communications Service and posted on the Web site in both languages. In the case of emergency situations, personnel will essentially use hand signals and body language. VANOC aims to ensure that all spectator marshals are bilingual, but it believes that this could be difficult to achieve.

It will be important that VANOC take every opportunity (daily meetings, messages on the Web site) to regularly remind volunteers and other people involved of the importance to communicate in both languages with spectators, athletes, the press and dignitaries, or, if they cannot do so, to find a bilingual person who can. This approach should become a reflex. Volunteers and VANOC personnel are Canada’s ambassadors at the Games and hence ambassadors of linguistic duality. Media communications

To a large extent, media communications will also determine the image that is projected of Canada’s linguistic duality.

All manuals and guides, such as the press accreditation manual and the media schedule guide, plus information bulletins and the accreditation form, are or will be in both official languages.

The vast majority of Press Operations personnel, which consists of 66 people assigned to the Olympic news service, are bilingual. A high proportion of the 115 volunteers assigned to this service will be bilingual, and all the positions involving contact with press representatives will be held by bilingual people. If there is a lack of bilingual personnel at one of the media centres at any venue, a request for backup will be sent to the main media centre.

Two important elements related to communications with the media pose difficulties in terms of official languages. These are the media Intranet site (Info 2010) and the athletes’ biographies.

The Info 2010 site will be in both languages, which will require significant translation resources. However, while the results will be communicated in both languages simultaneously, other elements, like athletes’ statements, will first be posted in English. Media, however, need information immediately: they will not want to have to wait for the translation to come through 10 to 15 minutes later. According to current plans, even statements made by athletes in French will be translated into English first for the English version of the site. They will then be translated into French for the French version of Info 2010. This is a highly unusual procedure. Statements made by athletes in French would not be available as spoken, but would go through the translation process twice before being posted on Info 2010.

Info 2010

Under VANOC’s current plans, athletes who perform well and are interviewed in French will see their remarks translated into English and posted on the media intranet site within 15 minutes. Then, a French version will be created. However, there is no assurance that the statements in French will be the athletes’ original words; they may be a translation of the English version. French-language journalists will have access to French translations of the athletes’ statements. Journalists will no doubt wonder why the athletes’ original statements in French are not being posted on the site.

What would be the reaction of journalists and athletes who will not have access to the athletes’ original remarks in French?


Recommendation 5
The Commissioner recommends that VANOC ensure that any statements made by athletes in French are posted on Info 2010 as originally made and at the same time as the English version.

While VANOC indicated at the time of the initial study that all biographies of athletes participating in the Games would be translated (and posted on Info 2010), it is now considering a variety of scenarios to reduce the volume of translation.

One possibility mentioned in the interviews was to translate only the biographies of the top 20 athletes in each discipline, as well as those of all the Canadian athletes. However, in its latest quarterly progress report on official languages, VANOC indicated that any updates to the biographies found in the previous results and general interest sections made after January 20, 2010 will be presented in English only. This option does not meet the requirements of clause 1j of the Multiparty Agreement, which states that “background information provided by the OCOG [now VANOC] for media use prior to, during and after the Games, including event results, will be made available simultaneously in both official languages.” In our opinion, the biographies are part of the background information provided to the media, and French-language media must have access to the same information in their language.

Athlete bios

Unexpected victories are often the most exciting moments of the Games. Imagine if, in Vancouver, a Swiss athlete who ranked 21st in the world were to make it to the podium; the translation service, which was planning to translate only the biographies of the top 20 athletes in each discipline, would be caught off guard.

Would such a situation tarnish Canada’s international reputation as a bilingual country capable of providing service in both official languages?


Recommendation 6
The Commissioner recommends that VANOC revise its communication practices as quickly as possible so that they comply with the requirements of Annex A of the Multiparty Agreement; this refers in particular to unforeseen situations and emergencies, all information made available to journalists on Info 2010, and all athlete biographies and updates. Medical care and emergency services

Medical care and emergency services are a key component of the services available to visitors, athletes, officials, dignitaries, and media representatives. The Official Languages Function has discussed bilingual volunteer needs in detail with those in charge of medical services.

All publications are or will be in both languages and the spectators’ guide (bilingual) will contain a section on the procedures to follow if medical care or emergency services are required.

The service in charge is going to recruit the 780 volunteers it requires to meet its needs at all sites. These individuals must have medical experience. To date, the service has chosen 45 of the required 250 bilingual volunteers; the selection process is ongoing. There will be a medical care station at each site, and a clinic in the two Olympic villages. Organizers will ensure that there are bilingual staff members on site at all times.

If additional bilingual resources are needed, the services of Vancouver Coastal Health, which provides French-language care by telephone, may be called upon.

In light of the importance of these services, the Commissioner asks the VANOC Official Languages Function and the Federal Games Secretariat to closely monitor the implementation of medical care and emergency services in both languages. In Chapter 2, we will discuss the role of the RCMP and the Public Health Agency of Canada in coordinating health and security services in the case of an emergency in greater detail.

2.2 Cultural programming and ceremonies

2.2.1 Opening and closing ceremonies

As the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic and Paralympic Games will be watched around the world, they are an unparalleled opportunity to showcase Canada’s identity and its linguistic duality, a key aspect of that identity.

In the countdown ceremony held one year prior to the Games, the resence of French was minimal in terms of verbal expression. This led to serious reflection and intense discussions within VANOC and Canadian Heritage about the principle of sufficient representation of both official language groups during the ceremonies as required by the Multiparty Agreement.

VANOC officials have clearly reiterated their commitment to ensuring sufficient representation of both official language groups in both the spoken and visual components of ceremony programming. This objective was again addressed in VANOC’s most recent quarterly progress report on official languages. The Canadian Heritage representative on the ceremonies committee considers that VANOC authorities are well aware of the importance of this aspect.

Without giving precise percentages for each language, those in charge have said that they would be satisfied if French content were to make up 22% to 25% of the program. 

For their part, Francophone communities have asserted that it is essential that Francophone representation extend beyond Quebec artists and groups and that the diversity of the Francophonie across Canada be showcased. The Commissioner expects VANOC’s firm commitments regarding the opening ceremonies to be implemented.

2.2.2 Cultural Olympiad and Canada Code online portrait

Francophone organization representatives have said that they were more satisfied with the Francophone content of the 2009 Cultural Olympiad than that of the 2008 edition.

Two announcements of the 2010 Cultural Olympiad’s performances have been announced; they include a Francophone component that appears adequate. For example, of the first 20 activities in the first announcement, five include Francophone content or Francophone artists. Of the 35 activities in the second announcement, seven include Francophone cultural content. Organizers have made real efforts to find renowned artists and shows in the Anglophone and Francophone artistic communities. They have explained that they have to consider the fact that people must pay to see these shows and that the organizers have to ensure that they can make a profit in a 95% English-language market. Francophone communities, including British Columbia’s, say that they are concerned about the fact that few French-speaking artists from outside of Quebec have been included in the programming announced to date.

The last announcement of activities, which will be unveiled in September (55 to 60 shows), will include a number of free shows. According to officials, it will therefore be easier to invite lesser well-known Francophone artists. We encourage officials to explore various options in order to showcase Francophone artists from different parts of the country for the Olympiad and the celebration sites. For example, they could consider pairing a Francophone artist with an Anglophone artist. In addition to contributing to the show’s profitability, such an approach would be the perfect way to highlight the country’s linguistic duality. Officials could also work with those responsible for the Place de la francophonie to develop programming where the various accents and faces of the Francophonie would be seen and heard. The Commissioner therefore expects the third announcement of the Cultural Olympiad to reflect the diversity of Canada’s Francophonie.

In May 2009, VANOC launched a digital album project (CODE) as part of the Cultural Olympiad, giving Canadians an opportunity to post photos of and messages about their country and their neighbourhoods. The best CODE content will be displayed during the Games on public screens in Vancouver and Whistler. This digital album will be fully bilingual.

2.2.3 Olympic Torch Relay

With regard to official languages, the Torch Relay does appear to be fairly positive. Francophone communities have expressed their satisfaction with the route. The group in charge of the Relay includes 12 bilingual employees out of 40, and it is aware of the importance of representing official language communities during the ceremonies. Through close cooperation between VANOC, Fondation Dialogue and the FFCB, it is hoped that one or more Francophone community representatives will sit on the committees organizing Torch Relay ceremonies in 110 of the 200 sites where the Torch will stop. The municipalities are open to this possibility.

At the time of the follow-up, Francophone representatives had been found for 70 of the 110 chosen sites. At these locations, scheduled activities include a French-language component. In Quebec, officials will need to ensure that the Anglophone community can also participate in organizing activities. At the 200 sites where the Torch will stop, protocol ceremonies will take place in both official languages.

Torch posters and the organizing committee planning guide, which refers to linguistic duality, are bilingual. There is a plan to recruit bilingual individuals for the 60-person team in charge of the Relay’s route. There will probably be an increased demand for French-language services when the Torch passes through national parks, particularly Banff, Yoho and Glacier. Parks Canada will need to take this increased demand into account in its planning. This institution will be discussed in more detail in the next chapter. As a number of Relay activities will be held in various national parks, this is an opportunity for this institution to highlight its ability to provide services in both official languages.

2.3. Links with Canada’s Francophonie

2.3.1 Links with the Fédération francophone de la Colombie-Britannique (FFCB) and Fondation Dialogue

The first clause of the Multiparty Agreement specifically stipulates that VANOC will involve members of the Francophone communities of the Province of British Columbia and elsewhere in Canada in the Games. Based on the information obtained, indications are that VANOC has continued to strengthen ties with British Columbia’s Francophone community through the FFCB, as well as with Francophone communities in other provinces through Fondation Dialogue.

VANOC has continued to hold quarterly meetings with FFCB and Fondation Dialogue representatives. It regularly discusses the Torch Relay, Cultural Olympiad and Place de la francophonie files with them. In addition to these quarterly meetings, VANOC has had many telephone conversations and informal meetings with the two organizations. The Director of the Official Languages Function attended the most recent FFCB general meeting to provide an overview of the various joint projects.

The FFCB and Fondation Dialogue have expressed satisfaction with their relationships with VANOC. They feel that VANOC responds positively to their proposals. They are directly involved in organizing the Torch Relay.

Vancouver’s Éducacentre College, which joined the VANOC Community Contributor Program, will place 20 bilingual students as employees in various roles within VANOC and will also provide online French language training to VANOC staff and volunteers. This is another excellent initiative.

In addition, Canadian Heritage has provided a little over $1,600,000 since 2005-2006 in support of Francophone communities, including British Columbia’s, to help them become actively involved in the Games.

Francophone organizations will be very interested to learn what the content of the 2010 Cultural Olympiad will be when the final announcement is made. They expect Francophone communities, including those in British Columbia, to be adequately represented in the programming.

2.3.2 Agreement with La Presse

At the time of the initial study, VANOC had not signed any agreements with French-language newspaper publishers. It had signed one with the Globe and Mail and one with Canwest Publishing Inc., which publishes 10 English-language newspapers across the country. Through these sponsorships, newspapers are publishing a wealth of information about the Games for the country’s English-speaking public.

In April 2009, VANOC announced that it had now also signed an agreement with Gesca Ltée, which publishes La Presse and seven other French-language dailies (including Le Soleil, Le Droit and Le Nouvelliste). This partnership enables VANOC to provide information about the Games to the Francophone communities that these media reach and also encourages participation in the spirit of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. This is a commendable initiative because both language groups will now be informed in a more equitable manner.

However, these newspapers reach few if any Francophones beyond Quebec and Eastern Ontario. To address this shortcoming, VANOC has included the Association de la presse francophone (APF) and its member newspapers in its distribution list for press releases and other information about the Games.

2.3.3 Place de la francophonie

The Place de la francophonie, which is to be located on Granville Island in downtown Vancouver, is a project that will feature cultural events and serve as a gathering place for Francophones and Francophiles in British Columbia. It will coincide with the Games and is considered to be crucially important by the Francophone community. Major progress has been made since OCOL’s initial study was published. Given funding provided by Canadian Heritage, Western Economic Diversification Canada and various provinces, including British Columbia, the financing package for the project has been finalized, and the project should be announced shortly.

For its part, VANOC will contribute to the project by providing material assistance and logistical support. VANOC may also contribute to organizing Place de la francophonie programming by providing artists and groups who will be invited for the Cultural Olympiad and celebration sites. As we will explain in the next chapter, as manager of Granville Island, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation is also playing a role in the Place de la francophonie project.

All parties involved have indicated their satisfaction with the cooperation on this project. For Francophones and Francophiles alike, the Place de la francophonie will leave an important legacy after the Games.

2.3.4 Grand Témoin de la Francophonie

Since the Olympic Summer Games in Athens in 2004, the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) has nominated for each Olympic Games a high-ranking public figure to act as Grand Témoin de la Francophonie in order to observe and report on the extent to which the French language is respected during the Games. The Grand Témoin reports his or her findings to the President of the OIF. Former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin was the Grand Témoin de la Francophonie during the Beijing Games. His report was released in late June 2009, and he concluded his observations with the following: “I left the Olympic Games satisfied with the place given to the French language in China, and I have given it a positive overall assessment. [translation]”3 As mentioned above, he expects Vancouver 2010 to set an example with regard to the presence of the French language.

The Grand Témoin for the Vancouver Games will be Pascal Couchepin. Mr. Couchepin was twice President of the Swiss Confederation. VANOC would like to develop and strengthen its relationship with the OIF. An agreement for the promotion of the French language in the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games was signed during the Grand Témoin’s visit to Vancouver, which coincided with the second meeting of the Board Advisory Committee on Official Languages on August 14, 2009.

The Commissioner is encouraged by the strengthening of ties between the OIF and VANOC, and expects that the role of the French language during Vancouver 2010 will serve as an inspiration for future international sporting events.


3. Jean-Pierre Raffarin, L’usage de la langue française aux Jeux olympiques de Pékin 2008. Rapport du Grand Témoin de la Francophonie, Paris, Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, 2009, p. 3.

Previous Page | Table of Contents | Next Page