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How the Olympics Dealt with Translation Issues: Challenges Faced and Lessons Learned

Sochi Olympics
How the Olympics Dealt with Translation Issues: Challenges Faced and Lessons Learned
on May, 09 2014
Sochi Olympics

Image credit: Sochi Olympic Closing Ceremony taken by Republic of Korea under Public Domain.

Without a doubt, the Olympics is the largest gathering of countries from around the world. Thousands of athletes prepare for years to be a part of this big event. Coaches and sports staffs have ceaselessly backed their players up to take home the most awaited gold medal. From the players, coaches and staff alone, there are already thousands of them expected to fill out the host city in every Olympics season. Add to that the number of spectators from around the world who have decided to travel all the way to the host city just to witness the biggest sporting event.

Since millions of people are expected to flock an event that only happens once in 4 years, translation issues are always a big problem. Imagine people from over a hundred nations gathering in one place, and not all of them speak the same language. This is the reason why the International Olympics Committee (IOC) prepared hard during the last Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Let us take a look at what they have done and what we can learn from the said experience.

Preparations Prior to the Olympics

Even before the start of the event, the IOC has already gathered information from many people on how they can resolve translation problems. They created an online forum called the Sochi 2014 Translation Issues. Through this forum, over 600 linguists from around the world can contribute their ideas on how translation problems may be solved during the Olympics. As a result, they implemented the following suggestions:

• Over 1,000 interpreters were deployed to help spectators and athletes deal with language problems. This number is twice the number of interpreters deployed during the previous Winter Olympics.

• Call center services were made available. They were tasked to help provide basic information in various languages. Major languages such as Chinese, English, Spanish, Korean, Russian, Japanese and French were given priority. The said service was available all day round.

• An app providing translation solution was created in order to ensure that everyone would be guided accordingly. When the queue for translation services was too long or the call center lines were busy, they just utilized their app.

The Official Languages of Olympics

The Olympics has 3 official languages. The 2 main languages are English and French. The third language is the official language of the host country. In the case of Sochi, it is Russian. The said languages were identified in order to easily provide referees, sports officials and other sports staff who can deal with the athletes easily. There were also taxi drivers and other maintenance personnel deployed who could speak these languages. Even volunteers were required to speak English well. Doctors and medical staff who were tasked to work for the athletes were also good in speaking the main languages. For the Sochi Olympics, over 300 doctors were deployed.

Dealing with Social Media

Since the Olympics is a very big international event, the organizers want to ensure that spectators from around the world are able to understand what is going on. This is why they have had their campaign materials translated in various languages. There were also forums created for people to discuss the Olympics in different languages. Twitter, Facebook and other major social media websites have also helped in making more people involved in the Olympics. By the end of the Olympics, there were over 150 million Tweets and 116 million Facebook statuses about the Olympics in different languages.

Organizing something as huge as the Olympics is indeed a tough one, but lessons will always be learned.

Bernadine Racoma

Bernadine is a writer, researcher, professional and multi-awarded blogger and new media consultant. She brings with her a rich set of experience in the corporate world, as well as in the field of research and writing. Having taken early retirement after working as an international civil servant and traveling the world for 22 years, she has aggressively pursued her main interest in writing and research. You can also find Bernadine Racoma at .

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