TOKYO – The French language has been almost invisible during the drawn-out preparations for next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
News conferences in Tokyo are conducted in Japanese or in English — or with English interpretation. Signs around the organizing committee offices are in Japanese and English. Printed material is largely in Japanese and English.
French is seldom seen or heard.
The L’Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, known also as The Francophonie, signed an agreement with organizers on Thursday that it hopes might change things. The body represents countries and regions where French is used, or the culture is represented.
“La Francophonie welcomes the Tokyo 2020 commitment to respect the Olympic Charter with regard to official languages, of which French is an integral part,” Louise Mushikiwabo, the secretary general of the organization, said in a statement.
Le Francophonie even has an overseer called the Grand Temoin — the Great Witness — to monitor French use.
Organizers said the agreement was designed to encourage the use of French “through the establishment of an official Tokyo 2020 website in French, and the promotion of French culture.”
Article 23 of the Olympic Charter specifies that French and English are the official languages of the games. In fact, the charter suggests French has standing over English.