Too much English from the Irishman in charge at Vancouver

Elsewhere on this site you will find articles celebrating Irishman John Furlong, who is head of the winter Olympics Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC). However, what you may not know is that Furlong and VANOC have been drawing plenty of fire for what many French-Canadians feel was an almost total lack of French at the opening ceremony.

An editorial in yesterday's Toronto Globe and Mail said, "The most watched event in Canadian history was a celebration of the richness of Canadian identity. Among all the wonders of the Olympic opening ceremonies, though, there was a glaring and audible neglect of one of Canada's two official languages." The Official Languages Commissioner Graham Fraser described it as "conceived, developed and presented in English, with a French song at the end." Oh là là.

Other government officials also noted the lack of French. The premier of Quebec Jean Charest and the Minister of Canadian Heritage James Moore both indicated that they would have preferred more French in the opening ceremony. A Quebec speed skater was annoyed that that two time gold medalist from the 1984 games Gaétan Boucher was not part of the opening ceremony. Others didn't like that a quote from a 19th century French-Canadian poet was translated into English rather than read in the original French.

VANOC has tried to defend itself, but it seems that French-Canadians are generally unimpressed with the fact that there were Quebec-based acrobats and flag bearers in the opening ceremony, that two of the show's producers were from Quebec and that Celine Dion was invited to participate, but declined.

Now the pressure is on Furlong and VANOC to deliver more French for the closing ceremony. The choreography for that event was probably settled long ago, but now Furlong and the rest of his team will have to - as Canadians are used to in hockey - change on the fly and get more French into the line-up by February 28.


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