Federal councillor Pascal Couchepin, Grand Témoin de la Francophonie, and John Furlong, Chief Executive Officer of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC), signed a convention today for the promotion of French at the Games in 2010.
Mr. Couchepin, president of the Swiss Confederation in 2003 and 2008, member of the Swiss Federal Council and head of the Federal Department of Home Affairs (health, social affairs, education, research and culture), was tasked by Abdou Diouf, Secretary General of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), with supporting VANOC’s efforts to ensure bilingual Games in Vancouver and Whistler in 2010.
The convention signed by La Francophonie and VANOC reinforces the high standards for bilingualism set for VANOC with its government partners. It provides for a program of cooperation that includes: assistance in recruiting young volunteers from Francophone countries and the participation of Francophone performers in the official ceremonies and cultural activities associated with the Games, as well as the organization of a Francophone event.
The convention also contains two major firsts: the extension of the Grand Témoin’s mission to include both the Olympic and Paralympic Games and the creation of a linguistic legacy through the production of a guide that lays out best practices for ensuring bilingualism at the Games. This knowledge will be passed on to subsequent Organizing Committees for use at future Games after 2010.
The convention’s implementation will be monitored by a cooperation committee comprising of representatives from the Francophone consular corps in Vancouver, the OIF and VANOC. Mobilization of Francophone states and governments, as well as the Olympic Movement in support of bilingual Games was particularly noteworthy at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. It will be further reinforced in Canada, a member state of La Francophonie, where it will benefit from the status of French as an official language.
This convention was signed on the occasion of the Grand Témoin de la Francophonie’s first visit to Ottawa and subsequently Vancouver, where he met with the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Honorable Lawrence Cannon, the Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, Francophone ambassadors, VANOC CEO, John Furlong, and members of VANOC’s board advisory committee on official languages. He attended the board advisory committee’s second meeting, met with several Francophone consuls and visited 2010 Winter Games’ sites in Vancouver and Whistler.
Mr. Couchepin will make a second visit to Canada in the autumn of 2009 and will be present in Vancouver during the 2010 Winter Games.
In his mission as Grand Témoin de la Francophonie, Mr. Couchepin succeeds Jean-Pierre Raffarin (Beijing 2008), Lise Bissonnette (Turin 2006) and Hervé Bourges (Athens 2004).