Interpretation Services at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics
After a delay of one year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 Olympic Games are finally in progress in Tokyo, Japan. More than 11,000 athletes from 206 countries are competing at this year’s Summer Olympic Games. Even though Covid-19 safety precautions have limited the number of in-person spectators, thousands of people are presently attending.
While the Olympic Games always invoke a spirit of community and togetherness, they also present a large linguistic challenge for organizers. After all, while sport is considered the ultimate universal language, the participants communicate in dozens of different languages and dialects.
Overcoming the linguistic barriers both in the Olympic Village and at venues for all communications with the media and the public is a mammoth task. The IOC (International Olympic Committee) relies on hundreds of interpreters to assist at the Olympic games. For many, interpreting at the Olympics is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and one they will certainly never forget.
Among the top professional simultaneous and consecutive conference interpreters working at the Games of the XXXII Olympiad are Chang-Castillo and Associates’ co-owners. They have Olympic experience, having assisted with interpretations both in the past and at this years’ Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
How to Become an Interpreter at the Olympic Games
Interpreting and translating at the Olympics is not a simple task. The few professional conference interpreters who have been chosen to be part of the team must have perfect linguistic skills and understand the nuances of the athletes’ language; they also have to be well versed in the particular sports and disciplines they are interpreting for. Whether it is gymnastics, archery, swimming, or judo, it is vitally important that the interpreters understand the details of the sports. They also need to be familiar with the rules and regulations of the Olympic Games and other important bodies such as the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) – which handles issues like anti-doping measures – all of which take time and dedication.
The Languages of the Olympic Games
Anyone who’s watched the magnificent opening ceremony of the Olympics knows two languages can always be heard – English and French. Additionally, the host language is added to the rotation. In the current games, this is Japanese.
While English is spoken by 1.35 billion people worldwide, it makes sense that it would be an official language. But French? With about 280 million speakers worldwide, it is the 6th most spoken language, and contrary to popular belief, French is a language on the rise. So, how did it become an official language for the Olympic movement? The answer is simple: Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the International Olympic Committee and the father of the modern games, was a French citizen, and at the time when the Olympics were reinstated, in 1886, French was considered the language of international diplomacy.
Of course, with so many competitors worldwide, there are dozens of languages spoken at the event, requiring skilled interpreters to ensure the Games run smoothly. German, Korean, Chinese, and Italian are among the most commonly spoken languages in the Olympic Village.
You may wonder, is there a difference between the Winter and Summer games when it comes to languages? There certainly is. Countries that do not generally compete in the traditional winter sports do participate in the Summer Olympics, thus a need for even more diverse translators and interpreters. Spanish, Arabic, and Portuguese are just some of the languages more prominently featured at the Summer Games v. the Winter Games.
Interpreting the Games Amidst a Global Pandemic
Providing interpretation services for the Olympic Games in 2021 is complicated due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Restrictions placed on the competition mean that many press conferences and interviews with the athletes are conducted online using RSI (Remote Simultaneous Interpretation).
After winning the bid for the 2020 Games, the Japanese 2020 Olympic Committee announced they would attempt a different approach to interpretation: in addition to the tried-and-true in-person strategy, remote simultaneous interpretation (RSI) would also be provided. Since Tokyo is one of the most advanced cities globally when it comes to technology, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Contrary to what had been announced, however, we have not seen a large uptick in machine-based (automated) interpretation at the Games yet, and when it comes to interpretation, that is perhaps a good thing. While apps offered on most smartphones can be convenient, machines often do not live up to their hype when it comes to accurate translations and smooth interpretations with the right accents. For better communication, having human beings performing the interpretation is still preferable to ensure a smooth and successful event.
There is perhaps no event in the world that is as diverse when it comes to both participants and languages as the Olympic Games. Whether as a professional or a volunteer interpreter, attending the Games in an official capacity has to be one of the highlights in any interpreter’s career.
Get in touch with us online or by phone at +1 (877) 708-0005 and we’ll ensure your multilingual event exceeds all your expectations. We’re the platinum standard in our industry, and we can’t wait to prove it to you!