Sochi 2014: The Olympic Games and Translation

Sochi 2014: The Olympic Games and Translation

“The Olympic Games are for the world and all nations must be admitted to them.”

So said Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics. Perhaps nowhere are these Olympic ideals better expressed than in the Olympic rings – the blue, yellow, black, green and red rings representing the union of the five continents and the meeting of athletes and people from all over the world.

If sport unites us, then so does communication. Translation and interpretation support has always been a crucial part in the success of Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Of course, one of the key challenges for an Olympic host city is coping with the influx of foreign tourists for the duration of the Games. The huge numbers of people throws up not just logistical issues but language ones too.

Take London 2012. There were an estimated 590,000 visits to the UK by overseas residents in July and August of the UK’s Olympic year.

That’s a lot of people and, considering many visitors will have been non-native speakers, language services played a pivotal role in ensuring the 2012 Games were the success they are recognised around the world to have been.

Importance of translation support

Olympic events take decades of planning and hard work, and the next one, this year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, will be no different.

As visitors make their way to and from Sochi venues and explore the sights and sounds of this fascinating city which sits on the coast of the Black Sea, it is crucial that organisers, local companies and tourist attractions ensure they provide accurate translation and language services.

For an event as big as the Winter Olympics, this covers a variety of formats: Games booklets, brochures and literature, website content, interpreters, signs and customer service announcements to name just a few.

And it is becoming more and more important. At the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin, there were about 500 translators on hand to provide language support to athletes and team members. At Sochi, there will be more than 1,000.

Last year Sochi organisers revealed that their recruitment drive for 25,000 volunteers for the Winter Olympics attracted interest from around the world. Tellingly, the most popular volunteer roles applied for were in translation, with more than 2,000 potential volunteers offering their services.

Sochi has also set up its own dedicated international translation forum, showing just how important event organisers consider translation support to be.

More than 400 delegates attended the event, including Sochi 2014 management, suppliers of translation services, professional interpreters with Olympic experience and volunteer translators.

Dmitry Chernyshenko, President of the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee, said: “The Sochi 2014 Translation Forum was a significant step in our preparations for the first ever Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Russia.

“We’re aiming to provide the warmest welcome possible when we welcome the world to Sochi and speak the same language as our Olympic and Paralympic Games guests, so the forum helped us to reach this goal. As the first Forum of its kind in the history of the Olympic movement, the Sochi 2014 Translation Forum was a further example that we are going to deliver the most memorable and innovative Games in history.”

As we look forward to this year’s Winter Olympics, it is clear that translation and interpretation services are moving up the agenda at organising committees for global events. If the Olympic Games are to be for the world, for everyone, then communication is key to their success.

Written by Yusuf Bhana
Yusuf Bhana
Yusuf is Head of Digital at TranslateMedia. He has an interest in how technology can help businesses achieve their marketing objectives. He's been working in digital marketing and web development since 2001 across a wide range of industries and clients.

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